There is no excuse for elder abuse. Putting an elderly loved one in a Seattle-area long-term care facility requires a leap of faith no matter how much research we do to ensure the facility is safe and conscientious. It’s an unimaginable horror to learn the facility has failed to provide adequate care, or worse, that our loved one has suffered abuse at the hands of a staff member or fellow nursing resident.
Boohoff Law represents elderly victims of nursing home abuse and their families in recovering compensation for the physical, emotional, and financial pain they’ve suffered. We approach our roles in these cases with the utmost care and compassion for our clients, and with a singular determination to hold anyone who has harmed them accountable.
If you suspect a loved one has fallen victim to abuse in a Seattle-area nursing home, or if you have personally suffered that abuse, do not wait to seek experienced legal help. Contact the Seattle nursing home abuse injury lawyers at Boohoff Law today.
Contact us today – call (877) 999-9999 or email us. We’re available 24/7!
About Boohoff Law’s Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys
As a law firm, Boohoff Law is no newcomer to advocating for elderly victims of nursing home abuse. For more than a decade, Tatiana Boohoff and her team of skilled, determined lawyers at Boohoff Law have represented nursing home abuse victims in Florida. With its sizable elderly population, Florida is home to thousands of nursing care facilities. Unfortunately, abuse cases are all-too-common there.
In moving to Seattle, Boohoff Law brings a wealth of experience and knowledge about the challenges of representing victims of nursing home abuse. The firm takes particular pride in providing compassionate, comprehensive service to clients. We understand how emotionally difficult it can be to confront suspected nursing home abuse and to worry about a loved one’s safety.
About Nursing Home Abuse
Residents of long-care facilities in Washington have certain rights granted to them by statute. One of those is “the right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, corporal punishment, and involuntary seclusion.” These forms of abuse are illegal under a separate Washington statute that protects vulnerable adults, which includes any resident of a licensed nursing home.
That abuse of elderly adults in nursing homes is illegal should come as no surprise to most people. What does escape many people with loved ones in Seattle-area nursing homes, however, is just how wide the range of conduct is that constitutes nursing home abuse, for which residents and their families may sue for damages.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
The Aging and Long Term Support Administration (ALTSA) within the Washington Department of Health and Human Services identifies numerous types of abuse that can affect residents of nursing homes. Below is a summary of those, with reference to their legal definitions under Washington’s vulnerable adult protection statute.
Physical abuse. Defined under Washington law as “the willful action of inflicting bodily injury or physical mistreatment” including without limitation “striking with or without an object, slapping, pinching, choking, kicking, shoving, or prodding.” Physical abuse can also include improper use of physical restraints, which the law defines as “the inappropriate use of chemical, physical, or mechanical restraints for convenience or discipline or in a manner that [is inconsistent with law or medical authorization].”
Sexual abuse. Defined by law as “any form of nonconsensual sexual conduct, including but not limited to unwanted or inappropriate touching, rape, sodomy, sexual coercion, sexually explicit photographing, and sexual harassment.”
Mental or emotional abuse. This form of nursing home abuse is defined as “a willful verbal or nonverbal action that threatens, humiliates, harasses, coerces, intimidates, isolates, unreasonably confines, or punishes a vulnerable adult” including “ridiculing, yelling, or swearing.”
Exploitation. The law recognizes two forms of illegal exploitation of a vulnerable adult nursing home resident. One is personal exploitation, defined as “an act of forcing, compelling, or exerting undue influence over a vulnerable adult causing the vulnerable adult to act in a way that is inconsistent with relevant past behavior, or causing the vulnerable adult to perform services for the benefit of another.” The other is financial exploitation, which is “the illegal or improper use, control over, or withholding of the property, income, resources, or trust funds of the vulnerable adult by any person or entity for any person’s or entity’s profit or advantage other than for the vulnerable adult’s profit or advantage.”
Neglect. Neglect of a vulnerable adult in a nursing home constitutes “a pattern of conduct or inaction by a person or entity with a duty of care that fails to provide the goods and services that maintain physical or mental health of a vulnerable adult, or that fails to avoid or prevent physical or mental harm or pain to a vulnerable adult; or (b) an act or omission by a person or entity with a duty of care that demonstrates a serious disregard of consequences of such a magnitude as to constitute a clear and present danger to the vulnerable adult’s health, welfare, or safety,” including by putting the adult’s health at risk with a controlled substance.
Abandonment. This occurs through “action or inaction by a person or entity with a duty of care for a vulnerable adult that leaves the vulnerable person without the means or ability to obtain necessary food, clothing, shelter, or health care.”
Nursing home employees, contractors, or management (or, for that matter, any other persons) who commit, permit, or fail to prevent any of the above acts face potential liability for damages, including attorney fees, under Washington’s vulnerable adult protection statute. Residents and their families who wish to pursue an action for damages should consult with an experienced Seattle nursing home abuse attorney.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Knowing what constitutes nursing home abuse is only half of the battle. The other half is recognizing the signs of this abuse, which may not always be obvious, especially to infrequent visitors to a nursing home where a loved one lives. Nursing home residents frequently refrain from reporting abuse out of embarrassment or fear of retaliation. Of course, if a resident reports abuse, the report should be taken seriously. But, in the absence of a direct complaint from the resident about abuse, here are some of the most telling warning signs, according to ALTSA.
Signs of physical abuse: Unexplained injuries or broken personal effects that would be consistent with being struck or restrained; lab findings that indicated over- or under-medication; a sudden change in behavior by the resident; and a caregiver’s refusal to let a visitor spend time with the resident alone.
Signs of sexual abuse: Bruises around the breasts or genitals; unexplained venereal diseases or infections; anal or vaginal bleeding; and torn, stained, or bloody underclothing.
Signs of mental/emotional abuse: Emotional upset or agitation; extreme withdrawal or refusal to speak/communicate; unusual behavior usually attributed to dementia; and nervousness around certain people, particularly staff members.
Signs of exploitation: Sudden, unexpected changes in financial arrangements, bank balances, or of who has rights to access financial accounts; disappearance of valuables; unpaid bills despite the ability to pay them; the appearance of long-lost relatives or new best friends in the adult’s life; and providing services to the adult that aren’t necessary or requested.
Signs of neglect: Dehydration, malnutrition, and lack of personal hygiene; untreated health conditions; and unsafe or unclean living conditions.
Signs of abandonment: The adult is left alone in a public place or left unattended for long periods in a room.
The best way to spot the signs of nursing home abuse is to visit your elderly loved one on a regular basis or to have someone trusted do so in your stead. If anyone suspects abuse, it may be important to alert authorities and move your loved one as soon as possible for safety and health reasons.
Damages for Nursing Home Abuse Injuries
Washington’s vulnerable adult protection statute specifically authorizes victims of nursing home abuse to pursue legal action for damages against any party—no matter whether that party is an individual or a corporation—for damages and attorney fees. Victims of nursing home abuse also have rights under Washington common law for damages.
No matter the legal theory for holding the nursing home operator or staff liable for damages, there are two general categories of compensatory damages a victim of nursing home abuse (or her representatives) can seek: economic (or special) damages, and non-economic (or general) damages.
Economic damages compensate a nursing home abuse victim for specific costs associated with the abuse. Those may include:
- Un-reimbursed medical bills, including for emergency medical services;
- Costs of relocating the vulnerable adult;
- Physical or mental health therapy;
- Restitution for the value of property taken from the vulnerable adult;
- In an action under the statute, attorney fees and costs.
Washington law may permit the defendant in a nursing home abuse case to pay economic damages over time rather than in a lump-sum amount.
Non-economic damages, in contrast, seek to compensate nursing home abuse victims for subjective harm they suffered while resident at a Seattle nursing home. These generally include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Damage to personal relationships (a.k.a. loss of consortium/companionship/parent-child relationship); and
- Negative impacts on quality of life.
Washington State puts a cap on non-economic damages. A nursing home abuse victim can recover a maximum of 43 percent of the average annual wage in Washington multiplied by the victim’s life expectancy at the time of the abuse (which, importantly, can be no less than 15 years). Washington law also, unfortunately, bars plaintiffs from recovering punitive (or exemplary) damages.
Whistleblower Rights for Those Who Report Abuse
Employees and other workers at Seattle-area nursing homes may have a legal obligation to report suspected nursing home abuse. Regardless of their legal obligation, workers likely also have a moral and ethical duty to report suspected abuse. They also have rights as whistleblowers under Washington’s vulnerable adult protection law, which protects them from retaliation from their employers.
Consult Our Seattle Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys Soon
Victims of nursing home abuse deserve justice but also often lack the voice or agency to protect themselves. They need family members and trusted friends to help look out for their interests, to report suspected abuse immediately, and to help them protect their physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing.
That is not always easy to do, however. Family members and friends of vulnerable adult residents of nursing homes often experience emotional turmoil, self-doubt, and confusion when they suspect nursing home abuse has occurred. Those emotions are so strong that they can, at times, leave family and friends feeling paralyzed and unsure of what to do to keep their loved one safe. Should they call the police? Speak with nursing home management? Move their loved one to a new facility? And, what about the elderly resident’s own right, under Washington law, to participate in making her own health decisions?
An experienced Seattle nursing home abuse attorney can help family members, friends, and the nursing home resident, answer these questions. The attorneys at Boohoff Law have years of experience confronting cases of known and suspected nursing home abuse. We consider it an essential part of our job to provide thorough, careful, and timely advice about what steps to take immediately to protect a vulnerable adult from suspected abuse, and what steps to take thereafter to make sure the adult is able to assert rights under Washington law to recover damages and other relief for that abuse.
The one thing not to do is to wait. Your loved one’s life could hang in the balance. Speak with an experienced Seattle nursing home abuse attorney immediately if you suspect abuse at a Seattle nursing facility.
Nursing Home Negligence FAQs
What is nursing home negligence and abuse?
Nursing home negligence and abuse refer to either a lack of necessary care or to harmful actions perpetrated against aging residents of long-term care facilities—either by staff or administrative professionals. Such neglect and abuse can take on physical, emotional, financial, and/or sexual forms. Nursing home neglect and abuse are especially heinous because those who make up our aging population are among our most vulnerable citizens.
After you’ve gone through all the heartache of making the difficult determination that your loved one needs nursing home care, of finding a facility that meets your exacting standards, and of entrusting your parent or other relative to that facility, it is difficult to accept the fact that your efforts ultimately led to neglect or abuse. If you believe—or suspect—that your loved one was harmed by nursing home neglect or abuse, you need the professional legal counsel of an experienced Seattle personal injury attorney on your side.
What are the statistics related to nursing home abuse and neglect?
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports several important statistics related to what it calls elder abuse, and these include:
- About one in six people who are at least 60 years old have experienced some type of abuse or neglect in a community setting, such as a nursing home, in the past year.
- In nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, two out of three staff members self-report engaging in some form of abuse or neglect in the previous year.
- Nursing home neglect and abuse can lead to overarching psychological consequences and serious physical injuries.
- As the world’s older population continues to increase in number, nursing home neglect and abuse are expected to increase.
Nursing home neglect and abuse are obviously serious issues that you should never ignore.
Why is nursing home abuse such a common problem in Seattle?
Nursing home abuse and neglect can stem from any number of issues, but they tend to stem primarily from poor management, greed, and failure to hire (and pay for) experienced, well-trained staff.
The basics as they relate to nursing home abuse and neglect can include:
- Staff burnout – Staff members often work long hours, are on their feet most of those hours, and face taxing jobs. Helping aging residents can be difficult work that requires healthy outlets for letting off steam. Many residents of nursing homes require considerable, consistent care that tends to keep nursing home staff continually on their toes. The nursing home itself, however, is responsible for providing the level of care its residents need and that they’re paying for. Feeling overwhelmed is not a valid excuse for failing to provide residents of nursing homes with the level of care they need. And there is absolutely no valid excuse for allowing the abuse or neglect of these residents.
- Understaffing – In addition to the issue of staff burnout, there is the issue of understaffing. Nursing home facilities are responsible for providing their aging residents with a specific level of care, and when they scrimp on staff, this can become a near physical impossibility. The additional pressure on the employees to meet all the residents’ many needs can be overwhelming. Whether the nursing home’s management is greedy and doesn’t want to pay for additional staff; is inattentive and, therefore, unaware of the facility’s need for additional staff; is lazy and hasn’t bothered to hire additional staff; or any other reason that applies, understaffing can lead to nursing home abuse and neglect, and management can be found to shoulder at least some of the liability.
- Lack of supervision – Nursing home staff members often have little training and/or experience in caregiving. Further, many nursing homes experience significant staff turnover (often due to issues related to understaffing in the first place). Adequate supervision can provide staff greater confidence and guidance, which can help them become better care providers.
- Corporate greed – Many large nursing home facilities are run by corporations that can allow profits to sway their decision making. For example, nursing homes that employ staff members with little or no experience to cut back on payroll and that fail to provide new staff with the training and supervision they need to become skilled caregivers increase the risk that neglect and abuse will ensue.
- Staff greed – Often, residents of nursing homes have worked hard for their entire lives and have amassed some wealth—even considerable wealth—in the process. Occasionally, a staff member will come along who is not above befriending a resident and bilking him or her out of his or her life savings in the process.
To put it succinctly, nursing homes house vulnerable residents who need a considerable amount of care around the clock. When management fails to keep up with the requirements that allow them to provide this level of care, neglect and abuse can transpire. Additionally, sometimes a staff member is a bad actor with nefarious intentions in the first place.
What are the different categories of Seattle nursing home abuse and neglect?
Nursing home abuse and neglect can come in any number of forms, but such actions are generally grouped into one of the following categories:
- Physical abuse – Physical abuse obviously refers to abuse that leads to physical harm, and it’s what most people think of when they consider nursing home abuse. Such physical harm can include broken bones, bruises, cuts, burns, and much more. This form of nursing home abuse isn’t as easy to detect as you may think—because residents of nursing homes tend to be very frail, to begin with (and susceptible to every manner of injury). Further, many nursing home residents are unable—as a result of dementia or other factors—to clearly express what they’ve been through. If you notice an injury that goes unexplained by nursing home staff, if staff provide an explanation that seems off or that simply doesn’t match the injury in question, or if your loved one exhibits unexpected behavioral changes, it might be a sign of nursing home abuse or neglect, and it’s time to consult with one of the formidable personal injury attorneys at Boohoff Law in Seattle.
- Emotional or psychological abuse – Emotional or psychological abuse can be just as damaging and harmful as physical abuse. Such abuse amounts to verbal or nonverbal acts that inflict anguish, distress, or pain on the nursing home resident. Such abuse can amount to verbal insults, threats, assaults, intimidation, harassment, and humiliation. Other forms of emotional abuse can involve treating your aging loved one like an infant, isolating him or her from family members, loved ones, and friends, keeping him or her from engaging in pleasurable activities, giving him or her the silent treatment, or otherwise enforcing social isolation. Witnessing the effects of emotional abuse on your loved one can be excruciatingly painful. Victims of emotional abuse tend to withdraw, appear afraid or skittish, retreat into themselves, or otherwise exhibit unexpected, unusual behavior for them personally.
- Financial abuse – Financial abuse or exploitation refers to the improper or illegal use of a nursing home resident’s assets, property, or funds. Such abuse can include tricking or coercing a resident into signing any type of legal document (such as the resident’s will or a contract between the staff member and the resident), forging a resident’s signature, stealing or misusing a resident’s money or possessions, or any other misuse of the resident’s wealth or finances. Again, residents of nursing homes have often worked hard to be able to afford this level of care, and when nursing home staff take advantage of this fact, it’s especially reprehensible.
- Neglect – While neglect doesn’t reach the same level as nursing home abuse, which is a harmful action against the resident, it can be, nonetheless, extremely injurious and can lead to serious physical and emotional harm. Neglect refers to a failure or refusal to perform one’s obligations as a caregiver. Residents of nursing homes are there for the express purpose of receiving the care they need to continue living their fullest lives. Neglect can refer to the failure to provide adequate hydration, proper nutrition, adequate personal hygiene, appropriate clothing, safe shelter, creature comforts, necessary medication, personal safety, a clean and comfortable living environment, and more.
Any of these forms of abuse or neglect can leave your loved one, who might be vulnerable to begin with, seriously harmed. If you see something that concerns you, don’t delay consulting with a knowledgeable Seattle personal injury attorney at Boohoff Law. Our dedicated legal team has extensive experience successfully advocating for the rights of nursing home residents, and we’re committed to applying our considerable skill to your loved one’s case.
What risk factors heighten the chances of Seattle nursing home abuse or neglect happening?
Residents of nursing homes are incredibly vulnerable to abuse and neglect in the first place, but several factors can render residents even more vulnerable, including:
- Physical or mental illness – Nursing home residents with mental and/or physical health issues are even more prone to being abused or neglected. These seniors typically require additional attention and care, which can further tax and frustrate the already overworked staff. This is, however, not an excuse for engaging in such behavior. Further, residents with mental illnesses such as dementia cannot often alert anyone to the abuse they’re suffering, which makes them more likely targets.
- Isolation – When residents of nursing homes live far away from relatives and loved ones, it leaves them more vulnerable to abuse by staff members. The fact is that these residents have no one checking on them to ensure their ongoing safety or to notice some of the tell-tale warning signs of abuse and neglect. Further, neglected and/or abused nursing home residents tend to withdraw and self-isolate, which means there is even less chance of anyone noticing their dangerous predicament.
- Disabilities – Those with disabilities tend to suffer from a higher incidence of abuse and neglect in general, and this typically doesn’t go away in the nursing home setting.
What laws protect my loved one?
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 is a federal law that affords nursing home residents (and/or their authorized representatives) all of the following:
- Residents have the right to participate in their own care plans and the right to refuse specific types of treatment. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to nursing home care that meets everyone’s needs and preferences equally. Residents of nursing homes have the right to personal agency, and this includes weighing in on their own care.
- Residents have the right to personal privacy and the right to be treated with respect. This set of rights highlights exactly how egregious emotional abuse can be. Everyone—including nursing home residents—has the right to communicate freely with whomever the individual chooses to communicate with, including friends, family members, loved ones, advocates, attorneys, and more. Further, residents are entitled to privacy during these communications.
- Residents have the right to have their own doctors and to use the pharmacy of their choice.
- Residents have the right to remain free from physical or chemical restraints except when ordered by a doctor under extreme circumstances in which the patient is a danger to himself or others.
- Residents have the right to have their own clothing and to live with their own possessions.
- Residents have the right to handle their own personal finances.
- Residents have the right to be free from abuse in any form, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, isolation, emotional abuse, and neglect.
- Residents have the right to speak out about receiving inadequate care.
Your loved one has legal rights to live a life free from abuse and neglect, and if this right isn’t being upheld in the nursing home in which he or she lives, it’s time to do something about it. Consulting an experienced Seattle nursing home attorney at Boohoff Law today is in your aging loved one’s best interests.
You invested in finding a nursing home that would allow your relative to live a satisfying life while in the safety of a facility that could provide him or her with the necessary level of care. If, instead, a nursing home or staff at a nursing home abused or neglected your loved one, our Seattle nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers can help you hold the facility fully responsible and seek compensation for the damages you and your loved one endured. Call us today.
Contact Boohoff Law Seattle Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Today
The compassionate, determined lawyers at Boohoff Law make it their mission to protect the wellbeing of vulnerable adults victimized by abuse in Seattle-area nursing homes. If you suspect abuse of a loved one in a nursing home, or if you are the victim of that abuse, then contact us right away at (877) 999-9999.
“Everyone here is so helpful. They jumped through every hoop necessary to get me the settlement I rightfully deserved. Tracey and Maria are super sweet. They made me feel right at home. I absolutely recommend Boohooff Law and will use them again in the future if I am ever in a similar situation. Thank you all at Boohooff who helped me with my case. 10/10 stars hands down!”
– Brandy K.