"The level of aggression that nursing homes are using to collect an unpaid debt is severely increasing," said Lisa Neeley, a Massachusetts elder law attorney.

The legal strategy is often rooted in admissions agreements, the piles of paperwork that family or friends sometimes sign, not realizing the financial risks. "The world of nursing facilities is a black hole for most people," said Eric Carlson, a longtime consumer attorney at the nonprofit Justice in Aging. "This happens in the shadows."

Nationally, Beth Martino, a spokesperson for the American Health Care Association, the largest nursing home industry group, said lawsuits against families are "not a common occurrence." But consumer attorneys in California, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio said they regularly see lawsuits against family and friends.

Read the full article on the NPR website.