Live Up to Your Commitment to the Nursing Home, or Beware

A recent Connecticut case highlights the risk to family members of nursing home residents who don't live up to their financial commitments to such facilities.

When her mother was admitted to the Cook Willow Health Center, Judy Andrien signed an admission agreement on behalf of her mother as "responsible relative," agreeing to take steps to ensure that the nursing home would be paid from her mother's assets or by Medicaid.

The facility sued Ms. Andrien, claiming that she did not live up to this commitment. Ms. Andrien asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that she cannot be held liable because she did not agree to use her own funds to pay for her mother's care.

The Superior Court of Connecticut has ruled in the facility's favor, stating that the claim is not that Ms. Andrien personally guaranteed payment, but that she is in breach of contract for not using her mother's funds to pay the nursing home or taking steps to get her mother Medicaid coverage. The court's ruling means that the case will continue to trial on the nursing home's claim, which it still must prove.

The moral of this case is that even when family members do not commit their own funds to pay for the care of family members, they can be personally liable if they do not satisfy commitments they make to the facility. 

Nursing facilities cannot require a personal financial guarantee as a condition of admitting a family member, and relatives of patients being admitted should sign nursing home admission agreements only as representatives of their parents (or other family members), not for themselves.  (When the case does go to trial, Ms. Andrien might argue that since the facility cannot make a family member's commitment a condition of admission, there was no consideration provided by the facility and that portion of the admission contract may not be enforced.)

To read the full text of the court’s decision in the case, Cook Willow Health Center v. Andrien, go to:

Consult with your attorney before signing any agreement with a nursing home or other long-term care facility. For more on signing nursing home admission agreements, click here.