By Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Senior Edge Legal, Boise, Idaho
Paying for long-term care in a nursing home or assisted living facility is expensive. It can range from $3,000 to $10,000 monthly. What if the senior cannot pay the bills?
In 2011 a Pennsylvania nursing home received a $90,000 judgment against an adult child of a parent who had an unpaid nursing home bill.  The suit was based on a law that states
(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.
North Dakota has an old law adopted in 1877, which creates a duty to support a parent.
“It is the duty of the father, the mother, and every child of any person who is unable to support oneself, to maintain that person to the extent of the ability of each. This liability may be enforced by any person furnishing necessaries to that person. The promise of an adult child to pay for necessaries furnished to the child’s parent is binding.” North Dakota Statutes § 14-09-10
An article in the North Dakota Dickinson Press highlighted the potential that nursing homes are considering using this old law to recoup unpaid bills.
 Health Care & Retirement Corp. of America v. Pittas, 2012 PA Super 96, 536 EAD 2011 (May 7, 2011)
 “Nursing homes eye old law as tool to recoup unpaid bills” by Dave Olson, The Dickinson Press, June 23, 2012.