Regardless of what you signed or didn't sign, you can be personally liable to your mother's nursing home if you used her funds improperly. Otherwise, you probably aren't liable. However, a Medicaid recipient must pay all her income beyond a needs allowance and any applicable exemptions toward nursing home costs so if you spent the income (such as SS and pension) otherwise you could have issues. This is one reason, it really pays to consult anelder law attorney when a loved one is in long term care and especially before applying for government programs such as Medicaid.
Lawrence Friedman, Bridgewater, NJ. Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the ABA approved National Elder Law Foundation, former Chair NJ State Bar Association Elder and Disabilities Law Section, Member Board of Consultors of NJSBA Real Property, Trusts & Estates Law Section, Vice Chair Special Needs Law Section of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and Master of Laws (L.L.M.) in Taxation from N.Y.U. School of Law. Visit SpecialNeedsNJ.com for articles and Q&A on elder law, special needs, wills, trusts, estates, and tax and SpecialNeedsNJ.com/blog for timely updates. Information on both Avvo and SpecialNeedsNJ.com does not constitute legal advice, as it is general in nature and may not apply to your situation or be subject to important changes. No attorney client relationship exists unless set forth in written engagement terms.
You very well might be liable. Often people who are trying to help others by acting with a "power of attorney" can get into trouble. First, most people do not sign documents in the correct manner. You should have signed: Mom's name, By: Your name and then written "PoA" or "Power of Attorney" or "Attorney in Fact.' All titles reflect that you are signing as the persons legal representative.
Until a couple of years ago it was easy enough to stay out of trouble even when you didn't do things "quite right" as a power of attorney. However, today, many nursing homes have language in their contracts that state that the "responsible party" - whether guardian, power of attorney or trustee, may be personally liable IF the nursing home doesn't get paid.
You should hire an elder law attorney that practices in a county near the nursing home. You can look at naela.org for a list of elder law attorneys.
Legal Disclaimer: Paul A. Smolinski is licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois only, and as such, his answers to AVVO inquiries are based on his understanding of Illinois law only. His answers are for general information about perceived legal issues within this question only and no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to extend any right of confidentiality between you and Mr. Smolinski, to constitute legal advice, or create an attorney/client or other contractual relationship. An attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement including an evaluation of the specific legal problem and review of all the facts and documents at issue. We try to insure the accuracy of this information, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy. The reader should never assume that this information applies to his or her specific situation or constitutes legal advice. Therefore, please consult competent counsel that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction and who is familiar with your specific facts and all of the circumstances.