Yes, based on the state in which you live, you could be made financially responsible for your Mom’s nursing home bill. However, in reality, this would be extremely unusual
Approximately half of the states have filial responsibility laws, also called filial support laws, which state that an adult child has a legal obligation to financially support a destitute parent. This includes covering medical and long-term care costs. Simply put, in the states that have a filial responsibility law, a nursing home can sue an adult child to cover the cost of unpaid nursing home bills. However, these laws are very rarely enforced, which is largely in part due to the creation of Medicaid. For seniors who need nursing home care and meet the eligibility requirements, Medicaid will cover the cost.
Generally speaking, in order for you to be made financially responsible for your Mom’s nursing home bill, a number of factors would have to align. First, your mother must have been a resident of a nursing home in a state that has a filial support law. Second, your mother must not have been eligible for Medicaid, yet she still could not afford to pay her nursing home bills. Third, you can afford to pay for your mother’s care. And lastly, the nursing home must sue you for payment.
Separate from filial support laws, adult children should exercise caution when signing nursing home admission papers for their parents. While federal law prohibits nursing homes from making third parties financially responsible for unpaid nursing home bills, some nursing homes still ask that an adult child or relative sign as the guarantor. Unfortunately, even so, signing as a guarantor, or the “responsible party”, can make another person financially responsible for any unpaid nursing home bills. Therefore, it is imperative that any person signing nursing home admission papers for another person make it clear they are not signing as a guarantor.