Written by attorney Joseph Stuart Karp

Nursing Home Admission Agreement: To Sign or Not to Sign?

If you are admitting a parent, grandparent or other loved one into a long-term care nursing facility in Florida, chances are it's going to be an emotional time. For your loved one, and for you. You'll end up with a stack of papers in front of you that look awfully complicated. The temptation will be just to sign everything. After all, the nursing home is the expert in all of this, right? Don't do it. Be careful about what you sign, and how. Mistakes could leave you personally responsible for any expenses that Medicaid, Medicare or other insurance does not cover. There are numerous cases of well-meaning family members who were shocked when they received bills for thousands of dollars as a result of their mistake. It goes without saying that you must read all the fine print in the nursing home agreement. There are two common provisions in agreements that you should look out for: First, the nursing home is going to try to get you to be responsible for any costs not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or other benefits. Look for language in the contract that refers to the "responsible party," "financial guarantor" or similar terminogy. Politely refuse to sign that. If you are your loved one's agent under their Durable Power of Attorney, you may sign -- but make it abundantly clear that you are signing ONLY as your loved one's agent. Write that next to your name. Second, many nursing homes will request that you sign an arbitration agreement. By signing this, you are agreeing to send any disputes to arbitration and giving up your right to file a lawsuit against the nursing home. So, for example, if your loved one ends up abused or injured while residing in the nursing home, you have given up your rights to sue the facility, regardless of the extent of the injury. Other arbitration clauses you will find in nursing home agreements put a cap on the amount of damages that you can collect if your loved one is injured, neglected or abused. Do not sign any arbitration clauses. In fact, cross it out from the contract.

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