Contact 6: Nursing home contract confusion

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MILWAUKEE -- As an only child Barry Toepfer made the tough decision to find the care his mother needed. "It's not an easy decision to make because you're seeing your loved one deteriorate," he said.

Toepfer paid $4,500 a month for her to stay in a facility near his house, and he also paid the admission fee of $4,500. The admission fee is comparable to a security deposit. Toepfer says, "You trust that everything's correct and everything's fine and they're there for your best interest. That's why I figured okay I'll sign it."

What Toepfer didn't understand was if the resident leaves within six months, and gives 30 days notice you're entitled to get your money back. If your loved one dies, the money isn't refunded.

Their death starts the 30-day notice, because like a landlord the nursing home has to find someone else to occupy the room.

Toepfer thought the contract wasn't clear. He filed a complaint with Health and Human Services. It found the contract was missing the "in case of death" terms and the facility was fined has since changed the contract.

Since the facility didn't do anything wrong, but Toepfer wants others to know what to look for. Besides for checking what happens if your loved one dies, ask for written documentation of the admission agreement and list of residents rights.

Read the complete Wisconsin state guide for choosing a nursing home here.