Nursing Home Abuse
Other than our children, it is hard to imagine people we care more about or feel a deeper sense of obligation than our parents. At a certain age, parents and other loved ones can become dependent on others. This can be a difficult transition that requires outside assistance, and potentially moving into adult family residence or similar type of facility that provides needed care. While each situation is different, the legislature has adopted the Abuse of Vulnerable Adults Act, which created a new cause of action to protect vulnerable adults from abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect.
A vulnerable adult who has been subjected to abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect either while residing in a facility or in the case of a person residing at home who receives care from a home health, hospice, or home care agency, or an individual provider, shall have a cause of action for damages on account of his or her injuries, pain and suffering, and loss of property sustained thereby.
ABUSE OF VULNERABLE ADULTS
Washington State legislature finds and declares that:
- Some adults are vulnerable and may be subjected to abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, or abandonment by a family member, care provider, or other person who has a relationship with the vulnerable adult.
- A vulnerable adult may be home bound or otherwise unable to represent himself or herself in court or to retain legal counsel in order to obtain the relief available under this chapter or other protections offered through the courts.
- A vulnerable adult may lack the ability to perform or obtain those services necessary to maintain his or her well-being because he or she lacks the capacity for consent.
- A vulnerable adult may have health problems that place him or her in a dependent position.
- The department and appropriate agencies must be prepared to receive reports of abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect of vulnerable adults.
- The department must provide protective services in the least restrictive environment appropriate and available to the vulnerable adult.
Nursing Home Abuse FAQ
I think my relative is being abused in their home; they don’t seem the same lately. What are some signs of abuse?
As we age, some of us can become increasingly vulnerable to the influence of those around us, especially if we rely on them for basic needs such as food, personal hygiene, and day-to-day tasks. Elder abuse can come in many forms including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect or abandonment by caregivers, and fraud. Some signs of abuse include physical pain, bruising, injury, impairment, emotional distress, fear, weight loss, reports of failure to take medication regularly or reports of drug overdose, caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone, and changes in the personality or behavior of the elder.
Should I talk to my relative and ask them if they are being abused?
That’s always a great start. If the elder trusts you and feels comfortable sharing with you, you can ask questions that directly or indirectly expose any potential abuse or neglect. Another recommendation for any elder relative you may have under the care of an assisted home, hospice, or caregiver is to visit often and to investigate their living conditions to make sure they’re proper. If you do suspect that the elder is being neglected or abused you should contact the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.
What if the family member suffers from conditions such as Alzheimer?
Cognitive impairments, loss of intellectual function, and degenerative brain disorders such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease make the individuals suffering from the condition even more vulnerable to abuse and less able to report it.
Should I seek out a personal injury attorney for nursing home abuse, or should I seek to contact the administration instead?
As mentioned above, if you suspect abuse or neglect, you should contact the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and report it so that they can investigate it properly. What a lawyer can do is that he or she can advocate for the elder who may not be fully capable of doing it on his or her own. An attorney can also help get the elder the proper guardians to ensure that his or her mental, physical, and financial interests are protected. These are troubling cases and having the expertise and experience of an attorney on the elder’s side is an important support mechanism.
There are noticeable bruises / marks on my family member. Could this be from them falling or something else?
The important thing to look for is a pattern of unexplainable bruising or other type or pain or injury. It’s important to talk with the elder and the caregiver to investigate the situation. Visiting regularly is also helpful to help determine if these marks are becoming a pattern.