Could You Be on the Hook for Your Parents' Long-Term Care?

You’ve moved your mom or dad into a nursing home and breathed a sigh of relief. The stress of caring for your parent is now behind you and you can rest easy knowing that they’ll be well cared for by skilled nursing staff. Professional care, however, can come with a hefty price tag. Have you planned upfront for the long-term cost of the care being provided? What if your mom or dad can no longer pay the bill? Can you be held responsible?

Being on the hook for your parent’s nursing home bill is a scenario that few people think about. Can it happen to you?

It could, depending on where you live.

Many states have a “filial support” law that states adult children have a duty to care for their indigent parents and pay their medical or long-term care bills. The laws vary widely from state to state and are typically interpreted on a case-by-case basis in the court. Very often, individual circumstances of an adult child’s ability to pay will also be considered. But it’s important to know there are laws that support nursing homes who wish to recoup their costs. Even if you live in a state without a filial support law, there may be other legal routes that a facility can take that involve adult children or even other relatives having to pay.

How does a person start to accrue costs? Nursing home bills often start to pile up when private insurance, a person’s own money or Medicare is exhausted. If you’ve run out of money. applying to Medicaid becomes the next step. From the time that you submit the application and you wait for approval, it’s very easy to rack up a bill in the tens of thousands of dollars.

What steps can you take to prevent yourself from being liable for a nursing home bill?

Begin by understanding your parents’ financial situation. Do they have adequate savings? Do they have long-term care insurance? What is the likelihood that they will outlive their money?  Work with a financial planner to know what options you have and how to make the most of your resources.

Next, see an elder law attorney at a Life Care Planning Law Firm. A move to a nursing home may be something that you know is coming down the road or it may happen suddenly due to a healthcare crisis. In either case, hire an elder law attorney as soon as you know that a move will be happening. The elder law attorney will help you to understand the questions you should ask regarding the nursing home billing, the contract you’ll be required to sign, and your rights and responsibilities as the closest relative to their new resident.

When Medicaid forms need to be submitted, the nursing home staff may offer to complete the form for you. It can be tempting to take them up on this offer. You will be better off passing on their offer to complete the forms for you. Nursing home staff members almost never have the knowledge or experience needed to submit a clean Medicaid application. The nursing home may submit the form late or leave out important financial details that cause unnecessary penalties and delays.

What should you do instead? Your best bet is to take the forms to an elder law attorney in a Life Care Planning Law Firm. This attorney will guide you through the application process and help you resolve any qualification issues.

If you think that it’s ridiculous to think that you could be on the hook for your parents’ long-term care bills, think again. It could happen to you, but if you have the right plan in place, it won’t.

Find a Life Care Planning Law Firm near you.