It is Friday at 11 am and the hospital tells you that your mom is being discharged at 4 pm. They hand you a list of rehab facilities.
While trying to help your mom settle in, you are asked to sign a pile of paperwork. You may be inclined to just sign where ever requested. However, that can cause a lot of trouble in the long run. More often than not, admission to a long-term care facility occurs at a time of crisis. It can be emotional, stressful, and overwhelming. Here is what you need to know.
1) READ EVERYTHING.
The terms in the Admission Agreement govern everything from reasons for discharge to when the facility will accept Medicaid. It is important to read the entire admission package. Ask the facility admissions staff to explain everything in detail.
2) NEVER SIGN EXCEPT AS POA.
Ideally your loved one should sign the agreement. However, if he or she cannot, then the facility will expect a family member to sign. You should only sign if you are an agent under power of attorney, and if you are, then you should sign as “power of attorney” (as in, Julie Doe, POA for Mary Doe). If you sign your own name alone, you may be held personally liable for payments to the facility. Signing as Attorney-in-Fact adds a level of protection against being held financially responsible for the cost of care in case your loved one becomes unable to pay. Be sure not to sign as a Responsible Party.
3) KEEP A COPY OF ALL ADMISSIONS PAPERWORK.
Any time you sign an admissions document, ask the facility staff for a copy. Keep copies of all admission paperwork in a safe place where you can easily retrieve it if there are questions about the agreement in the future.
4) BEWARE OF ARBITRATION CLAUSES.
Arbitration agreements limit your ability to sue a facility in the future. Arbitration clauses are controversial, but they are also ubiquitous in admission agreements. You can better protect your loved one by not agreeing to an arbitration clause, but you may not have a choice. However, if you are asked to sign an agreement and your loved one is already in the facility, you can decline to sign, and the facility cannot discharge the resident.
5) SEEK LEGAL ASSISTANCE BEFORE SIGNING.
It is always best to consult an attorney who can advise you about arbitration language, Medicaid disclosures, and other key terms. Often attorneys can negotiate modifications to the contract, protect you from becoming personally liable, and liaison with the facility to ensure clear communication and protect the interests of you and your loved one.
Written by Shana Siegel, Attorney at Law, one of the few Certified Elder Law Attorneys (CELA) in Northern New Jersey to be certified by the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF). Attorney Siegel focuses her practice on representing seniors, individuals with special needs and their families in connection with life care planning, estate planning, elder law and special needs law. Shana has been involved in health and long term care issues for over 25 years. Attorney Siegel and her firm are Featured on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources to help families plan for and deal with the issues of Aging.
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