If possible, the resident should sign the agreement him- or herself. If the resident is incapacitated, someone else may sign the agreement. Whether this person is financially responsible depends what the documents say and in what capacity the person signing acts.
To start, the person signing on behalf of the nursing home resident should not be personally liable for the charges unless she signs as guarantor. Nursing homes are prohibited from requiring third parties to guarantee payment of nursing home bills, but many try to get family members to voluntarily agree to pay the bills. Many contracts have a murky provision asking the family member to sign as “responsible party.” In some cases, this has been interpreted as a guarantor and in others as simply the person who will use the resident’s funds to pay the charges. We counsel our clients to make it explicit that they are not signing as guarantor. Often they are signing on behalf of the nursing home resident under a durable power of attorney and they write that after their signature.
It is important not to rush, but rather to read. If possible, have your attorney review the agreement before signing it because it could contain illegal or misleading provisions.
For more on signing nursing home admission agreements, click here.
For an account of a case that highlights the risk to family members of signing agreements as a “responsible relative,” click here.