Often, when a loved one enters a nursing home, family members such as adult children or friends may be asked to sign an admission agreement as a "responsible party". While the signer may believe he or she is merely a contact person, these agreements may define a "resonsible party" elsewhere in the document as someone who understands a responsible party signature is not necessary for admission but who "volunteers" to become financially responsible. Later, the nursing facility may sue them for all of a resident's nursing facility expenses.
Federal law forbids a nursing facility from requiring a financial guarantee as a condition of admission or continued stay. Responsible party provisions are unenforceable because they violate federal law. In addition, the provisions are deceptive under state consumer protection laws because the signer usually does not understand the financial liability involved. Many times these agreements are signed by children or friends of the sick person, a person they hae no legal obligation to support.
While family members and friends should not sign admission agreements as responsible parties, if you sign such an agreement and are sued by a nursing facility for the cost of services rendered under such an agreement, make sure an attorney familiar wit these issues and the law vigorously defends your case.