My Mom's former ALF is trying to get money from me. Do they have a right to do that?

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I am the DPOA and signed her rental agreement. I signed as the responsible party because my mother who was 94 at the time and had dementia wasn't able to sign. After living there for about 3 months and after several falls and trips to the ER a doctor wrote an order for nursing home. The assisted living facility charged us $5000 due to "extra care" my mother needed the last month she was there. However, she did not return after the last fall and we never got any sort of refund from the 10 days left in that month that she wasn't there. Now they are trying to get an additional $2500 from me because I signed as the responsible party. I never signed anything saying that I was personally financially responsible. I only signed because I am the DPOA. Now my mother is on Medi-Cal and has no assets, so they are trying to get money from me.

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One other thought on costs of ALF's: they should come up with a model whereby you can specify a "limit" to what the resident can spend that month, so you can stay on a budget.
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PaulaK and Countrymouse, thank you for chiming in. I still don't have my parent in an ALF....but I have one sibling who seems extremely determined to make that happen, and they are the one with the DPOA. Sigh. But the Healthcare POA is assigned to me, so I feel like at least I have the right to say, not this or that facility.
The failure of ALF's to fully disclose their pricing should be illegal. In my state, all the brochure packets had a "Uniform Disclosure....." something made up by the state, in an effort to make it easier for consumers to understand, try to compare apples to apples.
But it is impossible to say what future needs our parents will have, and the stress of feeling like your parent might run out of money, is agonizing, especially for those of us whose parent might only have about $225K depending on the market, and still 10 years, or is it 5, or is it 14 years, of life left.
I guess I need to "Ask" a new question, and that would be something like, how do you plan for an unknown length of Life, when you have a finite amount of money.
Another thought: most of the ALF's I looked into, were "private pay only," and they did NOT accept Medicaid. There was one or two that would accept it, but ONLY if you could prove private pay for 2 or 3 years; however, the nice room with a view that you moved in at $4,000(plus)/month, would most definitely NOT be your room anymore when you went on Medicaid.....you would be moved to a room in the lower level with 2 or 3 roommates.
It is truly difficult to "take care" of my parent, given their limited finances, and the astronomical !!! cost of care, AND not knowing how long they will Live!
And the sibling with the DPOA has the utter Audacity to question my sanity.
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Generally, you are only responsible for using your mothers money for her expenses and are not obligated to use your money. Ask for an itemized bill, what 'extra' did they do, what was her level of care, did it increase and if so were you notified. You can also contact your office of health care quality or regulatory agency in your state and ask that they check into this issue.
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Grace, I completely agree - the covert (they call it "discreet") pricing is an utter disgrace in this market especially and "there should be a law…" It's a fight I've had with home adaptation companies, too. The b******s WILL not even give a range of prices for their products; they give you "all that" about impossible to say, depends on the customer, don't want to "confuse" people (HA! - au contraire, methinks); it is flagrant fleecing and makes it so much harder for us all to do our homework and accurately cost options. Drives me wild. Thank you for calling it.
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Hallelujah, GraceH. Extremely well said.

I had exactly the same experience and worries when I started researching places for my Dad a year and a half ago (who is still living independently at his home, but for whom some kind of 24-7 care is going to become necessary soon). As you say, the first uncomfortable red flag is these places' unwillingness to be upfront about their pricing on either the website OR email, but to push you hard either to come in to meet with them or at least to speak with someone on the phone (I live in another state, so often, they had to settle for having a sales person talk to me on the phone). When I WAS in town and able to come in (which I did in numerous cases, because of course, I needed to see the facilities), the disappointment on the faces of the sales team that I did not have my Dad with me when I came was always palpable.

I found the contracts (when I was even given them to look at) almost incomprehensible. The "point" systems at many facilities seemed impossible to follow ... and I had exactly the same worry you did: My father already (of course) had serious memory issues even back then -- how on earth would I be able to contest ANY bill the facility might decide to present for any amount of additional "services" they might claim to have provided over the course of a month? And the degree to which such additional services were charged for was mind-boggling ... at at least one place, it was calculated by intervals of minutes spent with the resident (like an attorney might charge in 6-minute blocks of time). I had visions of my father having leisurely conversations with staff members he thought were just being friendly as they chatted with him "on the way" to showing him (again) where the dining room was, or helped with a shower ... all services that I understood WOULD take a caregiver time, and WOULD be charged for, but that I couldn't figure out how to keep from becoming more drawn out and expensive than they needed to be, without hurting my Dad's feelings (what was I going to say? "Stop talking to them, Dad! They're not really your friends! They're just trying to get more money from you!")?

And who would decide what services my father needed? Would it be my father? Would it be me? No, it would be some kind of services coordinator at the ALF, who would "meet with the staff every month or two" to "re-assess" my father's needs and then call to inform me what additional services they had decided he must have. I had visions of my very gentle, polite, and accommodating father being asked, "William, would you like Bonita to come and help you every day with getting your bed made up?" and smiling broadly (again, because he'd think someone was just being kind and friendly, and also because it would mean that nice Bonita would come in every morning to talk to him), and there would be another X number of points or minutes or dollars on the bill that might or might not really need to be there ... and while I wouldn't object to the ones that were REAL, any that weren't necessary -- but had been proclaimed such by the "on-the-ground" services coordinator -- would be sucking money away from things he actually did need.

Most of the places in Dad's town were combination facilities -- independent retirement with assisted living floors or "wings" and even "memory care" buildings nearby. Every place was anxious to have Dad come in and have a meal in their dining room. On every single place I toured, the tour just "happened" to run into an extremely happy resident who insisted on taking me to see her rooms so I could see just how individually decorated they could be, and how much like "home" a person could make them feel, while chatting on and on about how much she loved living in the place and wished she had moved their earlier. I did actually take Dad back to see one or two of the places in his town after he expressed an interest in at least seeing what they were like ... and on the first one, noticed that my SECOND "tour" (with different tour guides, because I was there on a different day), just "happened" to wander down the same hall on the same floor by the same resident's room ... which made me realize that probably some number of residents at these facilities get a price break for being sales "evangelists" to touring candidates.

At the end of the tours I took my Dad on, we were always shepherded back to the facility's office, where we were presented with lots of glossy marketing materials and information about move-in specials that would soon be ending, but we could get a particular deal if we signed today, and usually a folder that included lots of "activity calendars" and dining room menus and whatnot ... and I could see that my father understood none of it. The pricing information was always presented with much emphasis placed simply on the cost of the apartment, with the add-on service costs typically mentioned separately (usually in "points" or "minutes" systems that made no attempt to explain what any specific type of service generally cost in terms of a number of points or minutes).

Because we were not close to being at a point of signing, I wasn't paying attention to the termination clauses in the contracts ... but now that I read what GraceH writes above about the rental only terminating with 30 days' notice, rounded up to the end of the month -- even if you die rather than voluntarily move out -- I find myself grinding my teeth even more. And that full YEAR rental is even more draconian. Ouch!

I understand these places are businesses (some of them very large businesses, with shareholders), and in business to make money ... but there is something just distasteful about policies that seem designed to prey upon the specific vulnerabilities of a vulnerable population ... and shady about pricing that can't be published (so you always wonder if the pricing sheet you're being shown is the same one everyone else sees) ...

I don't have an inside perspective, and I don't know what the business costs are to run an ALF. I don't know whether most of these places are ultimately really profitable or just scraping by. You can't help feeling a bit squeamish about your contact with them though, for sure ... and yes, from everything I read, you want to watch very carefully how you sign anything "on behalf" of someone else.
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GraceH, I've had similar experiences in the researching phase - I have yet to move my Mom to one because she can't afford any around here.
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The more I hear about ALF's, the more I become very wary about them. I have spent gobs of time trying to find an affordable one for my parent, and 99% won't even list their prices online, nor will they divulge it over the phone. Then when you go there to get their information, they cloak it in terms so you think you're getting "only" the care you need (from a menu), which the uninitiated might think will save them money (as opposed to a full-service plan, like a nursing home). But in reality, once they have you signed up for the room you want, check the contract....some will charge you rent beginning 10 days later, others the 1st of the very next month (even if that is 4 days away).
Then they will charge you for every little item on the menu....give you a key fob so you don't even need to use your credit card or cash.....and send you a bill at the end of the month (what elderly person can remember how many times or where they swiped their key fob, for an entire month? how can the family outside the ALF contest that month's bill if it seems very high?).
Then, when you are taken to the hospital for a few weeks (because the ALF can't deal with bronchitis, they don't have adequate medical staff) you will still pay for your room (I get that) but also for a minimum # of meals....that you didn't eat.
At all of the places I interviewed, you paid for your room (and a minimum # of meals and certain other services) whether you were occupied or in the hospital, because it is a Rental.
Your Rental only terminates when you give them a full calendar month notice----meaning, 30 days **after** you die, rounded **up** to the end of the month.
At a couple places the Rental was for a full **year** and if you died with 10 months left, they could charge for the rest of the year if they couldn't find anyone else to rent your exact room (there's no incentive for them to fill that room if they can collect from you).
So the lesson is, be very wary of what you sign, read it completely, and if you are the DPOA be sure to include that designation before during and after your own name.
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iluvdogs - well it is good that you now know you are in the clear.

The facility will continue to hound you, they don't care as they know that just so often family pays. If I were you, I would send a certified letter to them with a return registered receipt (the green post card) @ the USPO. This runs maybe $ 8.00 to do. In the 1 page letter, clearly state that you are NOT personally responsible for any bills for your parent, that your responsibility is limited to being her DPOA. Any outstanding bills must show your mom's name for you to even consider paying them as required by your fiduciary duty as her DPOA. And this notice is such that their bills must be sent within 30 days of the receipt of this letter. (this 30 day stuff is key so put that in).

So you snail mail this from the USPO. They have to sign off on the green card when they get delivered the letter and it gets returned to you by USPO. That puts them on notice that whatever needs to be provided to you within 30 days then it's toast. Most facilities can't get their shit together to do this. So if they sell the debt to a collection agency, you then send them a copy of this and they "debt" is invalid. They legally cannot contact you further. Best $ 8.00 investment ever!
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I was told by an elder care lawyer that each state has it's own rules regarding parental finances. For example, in FL, children are never responsible for the parent's debts when the parent passes away. I wonder if the AFL in California is trying to go after you regardless of what you signed. And they probably can't, legally, but hope you or someone will pay the bill out of fear or something. When my father died and left credit cards in his own name (and Mom had a stroke a month later and lost her job) the collection agencies called all us kids trying to get payment. And I lived out of state at the time!

Know your rights and then stick to them.
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Just because you signed her into the nursing home does not make you responsible for her debt. Medical debt (which is what nursing home is classified under) is not transferrable to another person. For example if a Husband places his wife in the nursing home or hospital on his wife is responsible for the debt. Medical facilities try to manipulate this law and bully you into paying but when push comes to shove they cannot force you to pay the bill. The debt also dies when the person dies. Medcial facilities will try and make family or caregivers pay but by law only the person that received the treatment is responsible. Check with an elder law attorney for help.
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