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Although a nursing home cannot require a child to be personally liable for their parent’s nursing home bill, there are circumstances in which children can end up having to pay, and it is extremely important to read any admission agreements carefully before signing.

Children of nursing home residents often sign the nursing home admission agreement as the “responsible party.” This is a confusing term and it isn’t always clear from the contract what it means. Typically, the responsible party is agreeing to do everything in his or her power to make sure that the resident pays the nursing home from the resident’s funds. If the resident runs out of funds, the responsible party may be required to apply for Medicaid on the resident’s behalf. If the responsible party doesn’t follow through on applying for Medicaid or provide the state with all the information needed to determine Medicaid eligibility, the nursing home could sue the responsible party for breach of contract. In addition, the nursing home may sue the responsible party if he or she misuses a resident’s funds instead of paying the resident’s bill. In both these circumstances, the responsible party may end up having to pay the nursing home out of his or her own funds.

Additionally, despite federal regulations preventing nursing homes from requiring a third party to be personally liable as a condition of admission some nursing homes still have language in their contracts that violates the regulations. If possible, consult with your attorney before signing an admission agreement.