Forbes published an article in October 2018 that documented the 10 best and 10 worst states for nursing homes (Washington State was not on either list):
The Forbes article brings up good things to consider when looking for a place to care for any loved one in need of nursing home care. Do you know what questions to ask and do you know what protections are available by law?
Washington State is at the forefront in protecting the elderly. The Vulnerable Adult Statute (VAS) is a very powerful law that protects the elderly who have been neglected or abused in nursing homes. Do your research before placing a loved one in a nursing home, know the law, and know how to identify abuse and neglect.
Washington State’s Vulnerable Adult Statute (VAS)
Chapter 74.34 of the Revised Code of Washington addresses abuse of vulnerable adults. Read the full statute here: https://apps.leg.wa.gov/Rcw/default.aspx?cite=74.34
The statute recognizes that there are some adults who are more vulnerable to being victims of nursing home abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, or abandonment by a family member or health care provider. The statute provides authority for legal remedies when a vulnerable adult is found to have been abandoned, abused, financially exploited, or neglected as defined by statute. Legal remedies to prevailing plaintiffs include actual damages, costs of suit, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Who qualifies as a vulnerable adult in a nursing home?
In order to be protected under the Vulnerable Adult Statute the adult will generally be a resident in a Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) licensed home or facility, or receiving health care from those DSHS licensed individuals. The vulnerable adult must meet at least one of the following conditions:
- The adult must be at least 60 years-old and have a functional, mental, or physical inability to care for themselves;
- The adult is found to be incapacitated under RCW 11.88;
- The adult is found to be developmentally disabled according to RCW 71A.10.020 or who DSHS reasonably believes to be disabled;
- The adult was admitted to a DSHS licensed facility;
- The adult was receiving services from home health, hospice, or home care agencies licensed or required to be licensed under RCW 70.127;
- The adult was receiving services from an individual provider who is under contract by DSHS under RCW 74.09 or 74.39A; or
- An adult who self-directs his or her own care and receives services from a personal aide under RCW 74.39.
Examples of nursing home abuse and neglect:
- Bed Sores
- Broken or Fractured Bones
- Improper Restraints
- Physical Abuse and Neglect
- Over Medication
- Failure to Bathe Patients
- Stealing Money/Property
- Medication Errors
- Burns and Abuse Injuries
- Failure to Clean Bedding
- Decubitus Ulcers
- Injuries from Falling
- Undue Influence Concerning Property and/or Wills
Reporting suspected abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect:
Oftentimes victims do not report nursing home abuse and neglect because their mental state, physical state, and/or fear of retaliation, prevents them from seeking the help they need. The Revised Code of Washington §74.34.180 protects individuals who, in good faith, report abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect of vulnerable adults. If you have made a report, this statute provides certain protections from an employer taking workplace reprisal or retaliatory action against you.
Typically, the best course of action if you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect is to contact a qualified attorney to investigate and file suit where appropriate. Such action is often the best and fastest way to bring change, and to right wrongs. Contact one of our attorneys today if you have questions about a potential claim.