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Warnings about signing a nursing home contract

Whether your parent has already planned wisely for long-term care or you fear you will be the one handling the responsibility of your parent's elder care matters, there are certain factors you may expect. For example, you may have to make critical decisions about your loved one's medical care, and this may include choosing a nursing care facility.

You have many options for levels of care depending on your parent's health situation. No matter which Massachusetts facility you decide is most appropriate for your loved one, chances are you will have to sign an admission agreement. This is not something to do casually. An admission agreement is a legal contract, and you would be wise to take your time and examine it carefully.

Understand the details

An admission contract for a nursing home should clearly outline the services the home will provide for your parent. You should assume that any services not listed in the contract will cost extra even if the admissions counselor verbally assures you they are included in the cost of care. The contract will also explain the rights and obligations of your parent and other important details you may not think about, such as:

  • Whether the facility will hold your parent's bed if he or she requires hospitalization
  • The circumstances under which the home may involuntarily discharge or transfer your parent
  • Your parent's rights to appeal any administrative decisions and the process for filing complaints and appeals
  • An arbitration clause, which prevents you or your parent from filing a lawsuit to seek legal redress for any wrongs or injuries
  • Requirements for your loved one to change his or her Social Security or pension payouts to direct deposit into the nursing home's account
  • Whether the facility accepts Medicaid and your parent's right to apply for Medicaid if his or her finances run out

It is never wise to discuss your parent's financial situation with the nursing home administration, especially if your parent is within the 100 days that Medicare is covering expenses. Your parent's finances are no one else's business.

Even if your loved one's admission to a nursing home happens suddenly, such as after a fall or rapid decline in health, neither you nor your parent has to rush to put your signature on a contract. It is wise to take some time, perhaps even several weeks, to ensure the facility is a good fit for your parent. You can use this time to allow an elder law attorney to review the agreement so you do not sign something that will cause you legal trouble down the road.

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