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My mother's assisted living is dunning me for her expenses.

My mother has been in assisted living for several years now. I have moved her couple of times to be closer to me, the most recent because she needed to move to skilled/memory care. My mother had an income that was just above the max allowed by Medicaid. So she did not qualify for any aid. We had the max veterans benefit and a small pension in addition to her SS. While she was living at the first assisted living, she was still in charge of her finances and being a banker that was a big deal to her. Unfortunately, she got involved in all kinds of scams as her mental situation declined, and unknown to me at the time, her bills were not getting paid - I realized when the bank started notifying me of checks bouncing. I tried very hard to get control of her finances and even took the issue to the state attorney general. I even asked the assisted living not to give her the mail because most of the scams were mail related. They started gathering her mail and sending to me (she was in a different state at the time). I realized that we could not afford the assisted living she was in, after several hospitalizations and problems she was having, both from her mental state and her finances. I moved her to be close to me. She was still private pay and I had to start paying almost 1/3 of my income to support her. This went on for nearly 2 years and I am nearly bankrupt. I finally got her approved for Medicaid when I moved her to skilled care recently. The former assisted living has not ceased trying to collect from me. I was told that I would have to pay her bill and I told them I couldn't. I got an attorney and tried to settle with them for a reasonable amount that I could pay, and they refused any settlement. Now they are adding all these penalties and interests to this (it has been since 2014). When she moved in there, I was told I had to sign to get her a spot, as they would not give her a room without a second party signing. They presented a ton of paperwork and I signed for her in several places. I had no experience in this and I failed to read everything in would have taken hours if I had! In any case, at the time I asked specifically if I would have a financial obligation and they said that it was simply a requirement for me to sign as next of kin and that she would be the responsible party. It appears; however, that I signed something that they said now obligates me to pay. The bill is now something like $22k - when I tried to settle with them 2 years ago, it was $9k. That’s how much they have added due to interest and penalty and I will have to declare bankruptcy if this continues. The last attorney I hired told me she was sure she could help me and get them to remove more than half the expense. I ended up paying the attorney more than my mother actually owed the assisted living at the time, and the attorney accomplished nothing. I cannot afford another attorney. I have cashed in all my savings and 401k to support my mother all this time - in addition I have a disabled brother (only sibling) I have had to help support and a daughter in college to support. I make good money, which I am thankful for, but I feel robbed and at age 63 feel my entire financial future has been destroyed. I love my mother and would do it all again, except for signing anything for her care without reading very carefully. Any advice?

Status: Open    Aug 08, 2016 - 08:20 AM

Elder Law

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Aug 20, 2016 - 11:47 AM

Short answer - You owe the money. This situation is identical as co-signing a loan with somebody. The finance company wants a cosigner because there is a strong likelyhood that the first borower will not pay. Care facilites always want a second responsible party because there is a strong likelyhood that the elder will run out of funds and will no longer be able to pay.

But what to do now. First you need to learn some money management skills for yourself to assure that you will not become destitute as you age. Cashing in your savings and retirement monies now will almost guarantee that future poverty is inevitable. You dont want that. Helping family members is certainly honorable, but commiting financial suidcide is not. Paying a lawyer more than the cost of the original bill in an effort to avoid the bill was not a good choice.

The care facility will eventually sue you for the entire amount. Since you legally owe the money they will be awarded a judgement against you. They can begin attempting to collect on that judgement. They can (have already?) report the unpaid bill and the evenutal judgement to the credit reporting companies. Your credit score will drop. The unpaid bill will eventually be sent to a collections company. You did not need a lawyer to attempt to negotiate a settlement with the care facility, this is something you can do for yourself. It should be noted that a creditor or collection company will not negotiate unless the bill is seroiously in arears. Like unpaid for many years. The longer unpaid the better your chances in negotiation. Penalities can disappear with skillful negotiations. Bankruptsy is always a possibilty, consult a lawyer.


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