Nursing home abuse takes different forms. Abuse can consist of such purely physical acts as striking, pinching, shaking and burning (among others), or it can manifest itself in a nursing home residentâ€™s emotions, which makes it harder to identify. Behavior that expresses mental anguish, such as unexplained bouts of crying or flashes of anger, usually indicates that a nursing home resident has suffered emotional abuse.
But one of the most invisible and insidious forms of nursing home abuse plaguing residents of Washington nursing homes is financial abuse.
Financial abuse in Washington state nursing homes is, sadly, a common occurrence. Unauthorized bank account withdrawals, forged signatures on deeds or wills, mysterious charges on credit card statements: all these things are disturbing signs of potential financial abuse. And more often than not your elderly loved one will be reluctant to inform you of the abuse he or she is suffering for reasons of embarrassment or fear. It is therefore important that you learn to identify the signs of financial abuse.
Elder Abuse: The Shocking Statistics
Elder abuse is a growing problem not only in Washington state nursing homes but in nursing homes across the United States. The elderly comprise over 13 percent of the population. Nationwide, almost half of all nursing home residents have experienced some form of abuse. This abuse has led to countless injuries and even a number of fatalities.
Unlike physical abuse, which reveals itself in clearly visible signs like bruises, burns and broken personal effects, financial abuse is mostly invisible. The nursing home resident may show some outward signs of emotional discomfort, such as:
- Withdrawal from or suspension of normal activities (Does the resident refuse to participate in group meals or hobbies?)
- Mental distress (Is the resident showing signs of emotional upset or agitation?)
- Behavior typical of dementia (Is the patient communicating emotional distress through behavioral disorders like rocking, biting or sucking?)
- Refusal to allow visitors to see the resident alone (Has the resident recently become withdrawn or reluctant to visit with loved ones?)
Chances are, however, that signs of nursing home resident financial abuse will be somewhat less obvious than those listed above. You will therefore have to exercise greater vigilance in order to detect less obvious evidence of financial abuse. Examples of such less obvious evidence are a sudden inability to pay bills or to secure personal necessities.
Financial Abuse and Washington State Nursing Homes
The state of Washington outlines specific guidelines for what constitutes nursing home abuse, whether that abuse be physical or financial, with respect to a vulnerable adult. Washington state defines a vulnerable adult as:
- An adult with a developmental disability
- A person over the age of 60 who lacks the functional, physical or mental ability to care for him or herself
- An adult, living either in his or her own home or in a family memberâ€™s home, who receives services from an agency or contracted individual provider
Washington state law decrees that any person guilty of abusing a vulnerable adult is subject to punishment by law. Any person who witnesses such abuse, but knowingly fails to report it, can be found guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
Are You a Victim of Nursing Home Financial Abuse?
If a resident of a Washington nursing home suspects he or she is a victim of financial abuse, he or she has the right to submit his or her complaints to outside representatives without restraint or intimidation. An abused nursing home resident should be able to contact and receive information from client advocates and to have immediate access to organizations and agencies he or she thinks will prove useful to their case. Residents of Washington nursing homes should not be afraid to keep a log of financial abuse suffered while residing in the nursing home, and they should contact the appropriate agencies and individuals as soon as possible, including an attorney trained in nursing home abuse.
Consult an Attorney Trained in Nursing Home Abuse
The financial abuse of a nursing home resident is a profoundly disturbing event. But you can be proactive and seek the services of a lawyer trained in the field of nursing home abuse. A nursing home abuse lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and assist in the filing of a lawsuit suing for the financial and emotional damage sustained from financial abuse in a nursing home. Because they are specially trained in elder law, which requires a close familiarity with the statutes and regulations of nursing home care, nursing home abuse attorneys can ensure you receive the advice and guidance necessary to successfully file a lawsuit in the state of Washington. Only a nursing home abuse lawyer can ensure you receive adequate compensation for the financial abuse suffered in a Washington nursing home.
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