I am currently at my wits end. We live in Cincinnati, Ohio. My mother has alzheimer's disease with other co-morbid conditions (heart disease, severe arthritis, etc). I cared for her in her home for approximately 5-6 years. In October of 2007 it was no longer safe for me to keep her at home so after a hospital stay for a UTI, my siblings and I made the decision for permanent placement. At the time she was under a medicare HMO and placement was based on an in-network facility to cover her initial post hospitalization. After she was no longer covered by her medicare HMO benefits, the social worker at the nursing home suggested converting her over to traditional medicare which I did. I am the youngest of her 3 children, the closest to my mother and a nurse so therefore a lot of the decision making has fallen into my lap.
In late winter 2008 we started the medicaid application process which included placing her home up for sale. Her home finally sold in July of 2008 and the proceeds (which weren't much) paid for the pending nursing home bill and all the other outstanding medical bills as well as some final bills from her home. I had to find other living arrangements because naturally with the sale of the house I no longer had a home to live in. This was essentially the last of my mother's assets outside of a $3,000 life insurance policy that I had to jump through hurtles and climb mountains to get the insurance company to even communicate with me about because of HIPAA regulations (that in this case I feel have been taken too far!) much less to finally cash out. During this entire battle with the insurance company over this measily policy, medicaid continued to deny her eligibility even though her mounting bills exceeded $40,000+++. They would not approve her with a spenddown. She was denied. Then once the house was sold and I began distributing the money I was reluctant to let go of the remaining $10,000 to the various healthcare providers until someone could guarantee me that medicaid would approve her once those checks were released or at least approve her with a $10,000 spenddown until those checks cleared the bank. Again - denied until the money was gone. Even though by the fall of 2008 she had already acrued close to $28,000 in bills between the nursing home, additional hospital stays, medications, etc. Much more money was needed to go out then what was available but medicaid still denied. So I finally mailed all of the checks by the end of 2008 knowing that there was no more money once those checks from the $10,000 remaining from the sale of her home cleared the bank. Throughout all of this I was pushed to my limits, tired of arguing with various people and no one able to answer any questions and ended up just going into avoidance mode and essentially refused to speak to anyone. Emotionally I had become a wreck.
In January 2009 the nursing home sent me a letter stating that they were going to move my mother to another nursing home due to lack of payment and my being "uncooperative in securing medicaid." (uh - hello!) I received this letter 4 days prior to the scheduled move date because they sent it to the address of the house that was sold and not to my current address. The transfer was blocked by paying them her social security money that had come in December and January which completely drained her assets entirely. On February 25th, 2009 I received a call from the new administrator at the nursing home inquiring as to what arrangements I intended on making to cover my mother's $34,000 nursing home bill because medicaid was only going to approve her beginning with January 2009. When I questioned her about the medicaid approval and the social security money paid to them in January (no one - not medicaid nor the nursing home had informed me that my mother's application was even approved) she was unable to tell me exactly why medicaid wasn't doing a retro-approval or if the money paid in January had been deducted from the balance but wanted to know how I was going to pay her outstanding bill.
My question - my mother has been completely without assets since the sale of her home in July 2008. The money had been utilized to pay the nursing home their current bill at that time and the remainder to cover her outstanding medical/house bills. As being her POA and the person who signed all of the paperwork admitting her to the nursing home, can they make me personally responsible for the balance of this bill - $34,000? She has no money or assets - the house was sold, her only life insurance policy was cashed out. No money was hidden. No money was shuffled around. My mother was a widow from the age of 49, struggled by on going back to work and living on a basic clerical income and still had a young teen in the home at the time. There were no investments - her small IRA was cashed in to pre-pay her funeral expenses. Am I now responsible and going to have to pay the $34,000 + other pending medical bills from during that timeframe as well from my own pocket? I don't have any more money than my mother did. In fact - for the years that I was her primary caregiver, her social security income barely covered the cost of adult day stay so we utilized my income to help subsidize her social security to cover the household bills, medications and to put food on the table.
Do I have to personally assume this nursing home debt on behalf of my mother?
Any suggestions you could give would be deeply appreciated because to be truthfully honest I don't have the money and technically I am more valuable dead than alive at the moment.
Leslie in Cincinnati