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Nursing home care is often the only option for providing care to a loved one. These facilities are tasked with the responsibility to care for some of our most vulnerable individuals – those with physical disability, memory issues, and frailty. While the State regulates nursing homes and provides inspections, some of these facilities do a better job at maintaining cleanliness and providing competent and caring staff to oversee their residents. If a facility is negligent in the care of a resident, including abuse and/or other harms, they can be held liable for injuries or death resulting from those harms.  

Washington State’s Abuse of Vulnerable Adults Act is a safeguard to elderly and disabled (or otherwise vulnerable) adults. Any adult person who cannot provide for themselves and requires supportive care or resources may be considered a vulnerable adult. The definition of “vulnerable adult” includes:

  • A person who is 60 years of age or older who has the functional, mental, or physical inability to care for himself or herself; or

  • A person subject to a guardianship under RCW 11.130.265 or to a conservatorship under RCW 11.130.360; or

  • Who has a developmental disability as defined under RCW 71A.10.020; or

  • Is admitted to any facility; or

  • Is receiving services from a licensed home health, hospice, or a home care agency; or

  • Is receiving services from an individual provider; or

  • Who can self-direct his or her own care and receives services from a personal aide under RCW 74.39.

Adult Protective Services (APS) is required to investigate all claims of vulnerable adult abuse, and will work with social services and legal entities to assist the adult. Vulnerable adults and their loved ones can also file for further protections via a Vulnerable Adult Protection Order. Protected individuals are also entitled to sue the abusive party, and the abuser can face criminal charges as well.

Indications of elder abuse may be present among the following conditions:

  • Lack of sanitary upkeep

  • The smell of urine or feces

  • Bed sores

  • Bruises or other superficial physical injuries

  • Sudden loss of memory or decline in disposition

  • Improper medications or timeliness of medication

  • Improper or failure with nourishment (including dehydration)

  • Hostile or threatening living environment (emotional abuse)

  • Sexual abuse

  • Misappropriation of funds or property

You can check with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services to see if a licensed facility is subject to investigations and/or citations by accessing the free online database tool here: Simply put in the location or name of the facility. 


Contact Sherrard McGonagle Tizzano & Lind’s Bainbridge Island Office to schedule your free case evaluation. We proudly represent injury victims throughout Washington State.

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