York, PA asked in Criminal Law, Estate Planning, Family Law and Elder Law for Pennsylvania

Q: Am I responsible (if NOT a POA or guardian) to stay in a home 24/7 for a mother and father with undiagnosed dementia?

The office of aging claims that she can be legally responsible for them (mother and father). She DOES want to be helpful and a good daughter but does she need to be there 24/7? She has had to leave her job and is a ‘prisoner’ to their home. This is all until they are placed in a nursing home.

1 Lawyer Answer
Nina Whitehurst
Nina Whitehurst
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Crossville, TN

A: Pennsylvania is unusual (compared to other states) in that it does impose on relatives the obligation to care for and maintain or financially assist indigent persons.

Here is the Pennsylvania statute:

§ 4603 Relatives' liability; procedure

(a) Liability.--

(1) Except as set forth in paragraph (2), all of the following individuals have the responsibility to care for and maintain or financially assist an indigent person, regardless of whether the indigent person is a public charge:

(i) The spouse of the indigent person.

(ii) A child of the indigent person.

(iii) A parent of the indigent person.

(2) Paragraph (1) does not apply in any of the following cases:

(i) If an individual does not have sufficient financial ability to support the indigent person.

(ii) A child shall not be liable for the support of a parent who abandoned the child and persisted in the abandonment for a period of ten years during the child's minority.

(b) Amount.--

(1) Except as set forth in paragraph (2), the amount of liability shall be set by the court in the judicial district in which the indigent person resides.

(2) For medical assistance for the aged other than public nursing home care, as provided in section 401 of the act of June 13, 1967 (P.L. 31, No. 21), known as the Public Welfare Code, the following apply:

(i) Except as set forth in subparagraph (ii), the amount of liability shall, during any 12-month period, be the lesser of:

(A) six times the excess of the liable individual's average monthly income over the amount required for the reasonable support of the liable individual and other persons dependent upon the liable individual; or

(B) the cost of the medical assistance for the aged.

(ii) The department may, by reasonable regulations, adjust the liability under subparagraph (i), including complete elimination of the liability, at a cost to the Commonwealth not exceeding those funds certified by the Secretary of the Budget as available for this purpose.

(c) Procedure.--A court has jurisdiction in a case under this section upon petition of:

(1) an indigent person; or

(2) any other person or public body or public agency having any interest in the care, maintenance or assistance of such indigent person.

(d) Contempt.--

(1) If an individual liable for support under this section fails to comply with an order under this section, the court shall schedule a contempt hearing. At the hearing, if the court determines that the individual liable for support has intentionally failed to comply with the order, the court may hold the individual in contempt of court and may sentence the individual to up to six months' imprisonment.

(2) This subsection applies regardless of whether the indigent person is confined in a public institution.

Cite as 23 Pa.C.S. § 4603

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