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September 13th, 2010

A Seattle Times investigation has found that over the last five years at least 357 adult family homes in Washington have concealed cases of abuse or neglect of their residents.

Similar to abuse and neglect in nursing homes, poorly trained caregivers have done everything from neglecting resident’s basic hygiene to mishandling medication, sometimes giving fatal overdoses.

Adult family homes are private residences that take care of a small number of people and are marketed as a low-cost alternative to nursing homes where residents receive more personalized care. Washington state has imposed fewer regulation on these homes with no minimum number of employees requirement.

The Times found that many caregivers in these homes tried to cover-up evidence of abuse and neglect, including forging medical records, lying to state investigators, and threatening residents with eviction if they provided witness statements. In addition, even when the state Department of Social and Health Services was contacted when abuse or neglect took place, many times the agency failed to properly investigate.

In nursing homes, Washington law requires that even if a caregiver fails to report nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect, someone else along the chain of care would be required to do so. However, in adult family homes it is up to the caregiver alone to report abuse or neglect.

Although the Times investigation found that many homes frequently violated this law, they rarely faced stern punishments. And even when caught trying to cover-up problems, most of these homes have been allowed to keep their state-issued licenses.


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