Realizing that someone may have hurt your loved one at their nursing home is heartbreaking. Watching an older relative move into a facility is difficult enough. You need to trust that they will receive excellent and compassionate care. When you learn that might not be the case, you need to know what to do next. With the help of an experienced nursing home abuse attorney in Seattle, you can fight for your loved one’s safety and to improve conditions at the facility. When your loved one’s suffered a physical, emotional, or financial injury, an attorney can advise you of the right to pursue compensation. Matt Menzer, the founder of Menzer Law, is dedicated to holding nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Washington to a high standard. There is no excuse for not meeting federal and state regulations and maintaining the highest level of safety and care for residents, many of whom are physically and emotionally vulnerable. To talk with Matt about pursuing a nursing home abuse claim, call (206) 903-1818 or use the online form to request a free initial consultation.
What Constitutes Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse can be physical, sexual, psychological, or financial. You may notice unexplained injuries at various stages of healing, broken glasses, or several injuries over a period of time. Signs of sexual abuse include bruising around the genitals and breasts, vaginal or anal bleeding, and torn, stained, or bloody clothing. Be wary of any caretaker who refuses to let you see the resident alone. Instead of signs of injury, you might notice inadequate care, such as soiled clothing and linens, infrequent baths, poor hygiene or bedsores. While this could be a sign of unintentional neglect, it also could be purposeful. Either way is harmful and needs to be corrected.
Emotional abuse is just as dangerous though it does not leave physical marks. A caregiver or other resident might threaten, insult, belittle, humiliate, isolate, or control your loved one, which can lead to significant psychological harm. Look for signs that your relative is afraid of someone at the facility or exhibiting self-soothing behavior. Financial abuse can be harder to spot. It can involve a variety of conduct, including outright theft, forging the resident’s signature, overcharging them for services, or exerting undue influence on them to give others money or property. It is helpful to have a family member designated to keep a close eye on your relative’s finances.
Call the Police When There Has Been a Crime
If your loved one is in immediate danger or needs medical attention, call 911. When you believe your relative is safe for the moment, but they have been the victim of a crime, contact the police through their non-emergency line. Elder abuse is often a specific offense, reckless endangerment, or rape.
Inform the Facility
If you know or suspect nursing home abuse or neglect of any kind, notify the facility administration right away. The facility should be on notice of the problem because it is responsible for correcting any neglect or abuse. You can have a face-to-face conversation with an administrator. However, we also recommend putting your complaint in writing. Ask the administrator about the formal complaint process for the facility, or you can send a letter.
File a Complaint with the State of Washington
As soon as possible, notify the State of Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services’ (DSHS) Aging and Long-Term Care Support Administration (ALTSA). Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are regulated and licensed by the state and will be investigated and inspected based on a complaint regarding abuse or neglect. You have several ways to notify state authorities:
- Call the DSHS ENDHARM outline at 1-866-363-4276.
- Call Adult Protective Services at 1-877-734-6277 or make a report online.
- Call the DSHS Complaint Resolution Unit at 800-562-6078.
- Call a Washington State Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman at 800-562-6028 or file a complaint online.
If you wish to contact an LTC ombudsman, you can find one for your specific county. Contacting the specific ombudsman for the county where your relative lives can help you reach someone familiar with the facility and local law enforcement.
Give the authorities as much information as you can, including dates and descriptions of specific incidents, the facility name and location, and your name and contact information. Within 24 hours of making a complaint, an intake specialist will gather initial information. They will determine whether the agency has jurisdiction over the alleged nursing home abuse and, if it does, open an investigation. An investigator will conduct interviews, observe what goes on at the facility, and coordinate with law enforcement when necessary.
Why Notifying the Authorities is Important
We recommend you take these steps to start a paper trail. You want your concerns and your loved one’s condition recorded. By notifying the DSHS, you get the state to step in and begin officially documenting conditions at the facility. DSHS also can access information that is unavailable to you and your loved one without filing a lawsuit. The agency may find evidence of one or more violations, including issues unrelated to your original complaint. This is an important step in pressuring a facility to improve and keep all its residents safe.
Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
After you have notified the authorities about your concerns, we recommend consulting an experienced Washington nursing home abuse lawyer. If your relative has suffered physical, emotional, or financial injuries, they may have a right to file a personal injury claim against the liable party, which may be the nursing facility, a staff member or administrator, other residents, guest, or a third-party contractor at the facility.
The State of Washington’s Vulnerable Adult Protection Act protects individuals living in nursing homes, adult family homes, and other facilities. The law gives a vulnerable adult the right to sue a person or organization responsible for abusing them. If your relative passed away, and you believe their death resulted from the nursing home abuse or neglect, talk with a lawyer about filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
How Menzer Law Can Help
DSHS investigates to identify and correct any violations at a facility and make it safe for all residents. It is important to involve the state, but the agency will not review the evidence of abuse in light of your loved one’s right to compensation. An experienced attorney needs to analyze whether your loved one has a legal claim against an individual or facility and, if so, the potential value of that claim. We can help by:
- Reviewing evidence of nursing home abuse or neglect;
- Reviewing evidence of your loved one’s injuries;
- Determining fault and liability for your loved one’s injuries;
- Evaluating your loved one’s right to sue;
- Calculating the value of your loved one’s damages;
- Filing the personal injury lawsuit;
- Representing your relative in court; and
- Pursuing a fair resolution to the case through mediation or a trial.
Your loved one might not be able to actively participate in a lawsuit. A family member or legal representative can bring the lawsuit on their behalf. To learn more, contact us online or at (206) 903-1818.