Helping your parent, grandparent, spouse, or other loved one move into long-term care at an assisted living or nursing home can be stressful. Not only are emotions heightened due to the unwanted change, but you may receive confusing and even conflicting information from different sources. You may feel like you are drowning in a river of medical terminology, paperwork, and urgent decision-making.
During this confusing time, if you are Power of Attorney, you’ll be asked to sign all kinds of paperwork to help your loved one navigate the care system and settle in their new home. You may feel that you don’t have time to read everything thoroughly or that you don’t have the legal knowledge to fully understand the documents you’re signing. To help you avoid complications for yourself and your loved one, we advise several precautions.
Read everything and ask questions. Avoid the temptation to breeze through the contracts and sign everything without reading it. You may be working to meet tight deadlines, but you can put yourself and your loved one in a bad position by signing without understanding. Ask the facility admissions staff to explain everything in detail. If you are still uncertain about any of the terms, seek help from an attorney familiar with the laws governing long-term care facilities.
Never sign your own name alone. When you are signing admissions paperwork for a residential facility, always sign as Attorney-in-Fact rather than yourself. To do that, follow your signature with “AIF of _____” (as in, John Smith, AIF of Julie Smith). Signing as Attorney-in-Fact is different than signing as yourself and has different legal consequences. If you sign your own name alone, you may be held personally responsible for making payments to the facility. Signing as Attorney-in-Fact protects you against financial responsibility for the cost of care in case your loved one becomes unable to pay.
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.
Do not sign arbitration documents. Arbitration agreements limit your legal options if you discover signs of improper treatment by facility staff. Tennessee and federal law prohibit facility
administrators from requiring consent to arbitration as a condition of admission. You can better protect your loved one by declining to sign an arbitration agreement – but sometimes this can be tricky. 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. However, if your loved one has not yet moved into the facility, the staff may decline admission on some other basis in the absence of a signed arbitration agreement. If you find yourself in this situation, seek legal help before signing any admissions paperwork or agreements.
Seek legal assistance before signing. If you have any questions about the admissions process or feel concerned about any paperwork you are asked to sign, get in touch with a qualified elder law attorney before taking action. They will take the mystery out of the process and reduce the stress brought on by uncertainty. In addition, a firm that specializes in Life Care Planning can facilitate a smooth transition, advocate on your behalf, and liaison with the facility to ensure clear communication and protect the interests of your loved one.
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