Elder Abuse on the Rise in Washington State

Recent data show that elder abuse is on the rise in Washington State. In fact, reported cases of elder abuse grew by more than 200% between 2008 and 2016. And it’s estimated that for every one reported case, 24 go unreported. Elder abuse is taking a bigger spotlight as the senior population continues to surge.

Why are so Many Elder Abuse Cases Under-Reported?

There are many factors that make elder abuse difficult to report – or spot in the first place.

For instance, consider that in 71% of cases of elder financial abuse, adult children are to blame. Patients dealing with dementia may not be able to alert others to physical or psychological abuse. Dependent on their caretakers, some elderly people fear what will happen if they speak up. Nursing home residents may not have any close family to check in on them or advocate if a problem arises.

To sum it up, the elderly is a vulnerable population that makes them easy target for all kinds of abuse.

What are Some Common Signs of Elder Abuse to Watch for?

Elder abuse can take many forms – including financial, physical, sexual, and psychological. Sometimes, the abuse is direct and obvious, such as verbal attacks or pushing. Other times, the abuse is in the form of neglect, where staff is failing to meet a person’s basic needs.

Here are some symptoms of elder abuse to watch for:

  • Bedsores
  • Broken bones or fractures
  • Welts or bruises
  • Changes in mental state
  • Lack of cleanliness or personal hygiene
  • Social isolation
  • Unexplained financial problems
  • Sudden changes to estate or financial accounts

You can also help advocate for your elderly loved ones by staying involved in their lives. Visit them often and also, at different times of the day. Get to know their caretakers and nursing staff. Take note of any sudden changes in their physical or mental well-being. Research shows that abuse is less likely to happen when the elderly person has a support system.

What does Washington State law say about Elder Abuse?

Washington State defines a vulnerable adult as someone who meets any of the following criteria:

  1. 60 years or older who is unable to care for himself or herself
  2. Subject to a guardianship
  3. Has a developmental delay
  4. Admitted to a facility
  5. Receiving services for home health, hospice, or a home care agency
  6. Receiving services from a provider
  7. Self-directs his or her own care and receives services from a personal aide.

Many of our elderly population will fall under this legal definition of a vulnerable adult.

It is expressly against the law to engage in any form of abuse of a vulnerable adult. This could include sexual, mental, physical, or financial. RCW 74.34.020 clearly defines each of these types of abuses.

What else is Washington State Doing About Elder Abuse?

Washington is making elder abuse a priority health issue.

Currently, proposed legislation would raise the statute of limitations from three to six years. This means that the State could investigate and prosecute more cases. As signs of elder abuse can be trickier to spot, it also gives families more time to respond.

In September of this year, Pierce County received one of 9 nationwide grants to fight elder abuse. The Department of Justice awarded the county $370,985 to address this pressing issue. The money means more resources to help the elderly through local law enforcement, victims’ organizations, and a newly formed community response team. Since receiving the grant, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist has seen an uptick in cases being prosecuted.

How Do I Report an Instance of Elder Abuse?

It’s important to speak up if you suspect elder abuse is happening. Remember, the elderly person may not be in a position to speak up for themselves. And, this should go without saying, but call 911 anytime there’s an emergency such as active abuse or life-threatening injuries.

You can report suspected elder abuse to Adult Protective Services (APS), which is an arm of DSHS. APS will There are a few different ways you can make a report to APS:

Of all these methods, APS encourages reporters to consider using the online form, which will give you a confirmation number.

When you make a report, you’ll need to provide the victim’s name, contact information, and why you’re concerned. You’ll also provide your name and contact information should the investigator need to follow up with any questions. Additional information on this process can be found at the State of Washington Adult Protective Services website.

What if the Elder Abuse is Taking Place at a Nursing Home?

If you suspect someone is abusing your loved one at their nursing home or long-term care facility, you could reach out to a nursing home abuse lawyer for help. A lawyer can help advise you on steps to take, including:

  • Safe removal of your loved one to another facility
  • Investigation of records
  • Securing of critical evidence
  • Taking necessary legal action, including filing a claim

It can be complicated to navigate a claim against a nursing home. We highly recommend you reach out to an attorney for assistance.

Need a Lawyer for Help? We’re Here.

Depending on the situation, you may also have grounds to bring a civil lawsuit. For instance, you might be able to pursue a nursing home negligence or wrongful death lawsuit. Our attorneys at Ladenburg Law can speak with you at no cost to help determine if legal action can be taken in your situation.

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