Admitting Your Parent to a Nursing Home
Making the decision for nursing home care for a parent is often an emotional and exhausting experience. You will be worried about the kind of care your parent will get and his emotional reaction to the move. One of the last things you want to worry about is the paperwork, but the nursing home contract is one of the most important things you should pay attention to.
The nursing home contract is the "Admission Agreement" that nursing homes will ask you or your parent to sign. This contract describes in detail the rights and responsibilities of both the patient and the nursing home. By signing the Admission Agreement, you are agreeing to what it says, whether you have had a chance to read it or not.
Who Should Sign a Nursing Home Admission Agreement?
Whenever possible the patient should sign the contract. Individual state laws, as well as federal laws, forbid a nursing home from requiring that a third party sign the admission agreement in order for a patient to be admitted.
If your parent is not able to sign the contract because he is either unable to understand or unable physically to sign, then his legal guardian or his "Agent" (acting with a valid Power of Attorney document) can sign on his behalf. By signing as "agent" or as "guardian," you are agreeing to accept the responsibility of paying the patient's bills FROM THE PATIENT'S OWN RESOURCES. In order to be certain that you are signing as agent, and not making yourself personally responsible for your parent's bills, you should always consult with an attorney about the proper wording to use when signing any contract on behalf of someone else.
If your parent is unable to sign the nursing home admission agreement, if there is no power of attorney or guardianship in place, and if the nursing home is refusing admission without a signed agreement, you may have no choice but to sign. If you feel you must sign the nursing home admission contract, you must be even more careful to avoid obligating yourself financially. Before you sign anything, get instruction from an attorney about exactly how to sign documents in order to avoid accepting personal responsibility for any expenses incurred by your parent.
Many nursing home contracts have a place for a third party to sign as "Responsible Party." Many of these contracts will not be clear about the responsibilities of this "responsible party." If your parent has signed the agreement, then there is no reason for you to also be required to sign. If the nursing home representative says that the "Responsible Party" is the family member to be contacted for emergency medical decisions or other important communication, a copy of your power of attorney or guardianship document should suffice. If your parent has signed the contract, there is no reason why you should have to sign, as well.
Before you encourage your parent to sign the Admission Agreement, or before you sign on her behalf, be very careful to examine each page for blanks or spaces that have not been filled in. Never sign a contract that has blank areas that the nursing home representative says will be completed later.
Be sure that the nursing home representative has signed in every appropriate place before you ask for copies of everything you or your parent have signed. Do not leave the nursing home without these copies, and do not be put off by a promise to have them ready for you to pick up "later."