Millions of older Americans are living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and about 7 percent of complaints on long-term care residences involve abuse, neglect, or exploitation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging.
The Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon, and Western Washington urges consumers do research when selecting care facilities and to watch out for warning signs of elder abuse.
Indicators of exploitation can be financial, physical, or emotional and include: unusual cash withdrawals, investments or high-dollar purchases; adjusted wills, trusts, or powers of attorney; poor skin condition, rashes, lice, infections, dehydration, malnutrition, drastic weight loss, or unexplained injuries; or socially withdrawn or non-communicative behavior.
Have you visited several sites and filled out a checklist for each one? Do facilities appear safe, clean, and organized? Do residents seem well cared for and in good spirits? Is the food appetizing and adjustable to dietary restrictions? Is there a daily activity schedule or do occupants seem under-engaged?
• Are visiting hours flexible? Can friends and families monitor care at any time?
• What’s the ratio of aides to residents or patients? How quickly do caregivers respond to rings or calls for assistance? What’s the demeanor of the caregivers? How do nursing homes compare in terms of quality of care at medicare.gov/quality-care-finder?
• Is the information available from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services on complaints filed about the facility and inspection reports on it positive or negative?
• What’s the protocol on medical decisions? Will the family be notified of all changes to doctors, medicines, or other treatments beforehand?
• Do facilities offer verifiable references?
To report elder abuse in Washington state, call 866-EndHarm or 866-363-4276.
For more information, go to the DSHS’ Adult Abuse and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Center on Elder Abuse at ncea.aoa.gov.
For more information for boomer consumers, see my blog The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide.
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