The Daily Need

Abuse, neglect and exploitation in ‘adult family homes’

Next year, the oldest baby boomers will turn 65, raising the question of how America will care for a burgeoning senior population unlike any the country has ever seen. The trend across the country is toward small, community-based residential care that involves little government regulation compared with that of traditional nursing homes. In theory, this is a great idea. But Seattle Times investigative reporter Michael Berens has spent more than a year and a half investigating abuses in such homes in Seattle, and has uncovered 236 unreported deaths linked to abuse or neglect in these adult family homes, as well as accounts of

elderly victims who were imprisoned in their rooms, roped into their beds at night, strapped to chairs during the day so they wouldn’t wander off, drugged into submission or left without proper medical treatment for weeks.

As a cheaper, more family-like alternative to nursing homes, Washington State licenses private home owners to rent out spare rooms and provide care for up to six elderly residents. But while nursing homes are federally regulated, these homes are under the state’s jurisdiction and are both less regulated and, because of their small, patchwork nature, harder to monitor. The program is riddled with abuse and neglect that often goes unreported, when reported to the proper authorities goes uninvestigated, and when investigated and found to be criminal, goes unmentioned to the police.


For residents of these homes, the rate of death from falling is four times higher than for residents of traditional nursing homes; from choking, the rate is 15 times higher. Twenty-nine deaths were linked to bedsores, which, if detected early, can be treated with ointments or powders.

Exploitation is a major problem as well — with rent from elderly residents ranging from $2,000 to $7,000 a month, Berens found dozens of these homes on the market back in January, residents included. One listing even advertised five seniors for $120,000, “sold separately” from the home.

Page Ulrey, the prosecutor in Seattle, compares elder abuse — and the social and legal response to it — to where we were with domestic abuse and sexual assault 30 years ago. “There is a tremendous amount of denial in this country that elder abuse exists and occurs,” Ulrey says.

I think many people, and I’m certainly guilty sometimes of this, too, don’t want to believe it’s as bad a problem as it is. And they don’t want to think of themselves as getting old. They don’t want to think of themselves as dying. They don’t want to think of their parents as ever being in a situation where they could be neglected or exploited. So we’ve kind of tended to box it away and not deal with it. The same way we tend to box away much of our elderly population in nursing homes and adult family homes.

While Berens story focuses on Washington State, where there are 2,984 adult family homes, approximately 50,000 such facilities exist in the U.S., housing almost a million people. Get the full story here. It’s a tough read, but an important one.

Need to Know is producing a piece based on Berens’ reporting which will air this Friday.

 
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Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patricia-Ehlers/100001054186413 Patricia Ehlers

    My dear Grandmother was a sweet loving “Na-Na” to many grandchildren, and she herself mother to 10 children. I know that she was abused at a rehabilatation facility in San Diego–and I wish to say to everyone that if you have any loved one in ANY HOSPITAL, ADULT FAMILY HOME, MENTAL FACILTY OF ANYKIND……ANYWHERE…. You MUST be involved in the day to day care, ask the questions & come to check on things when “THEY” are not expecting you. It could save the life of someone you love. I loved my NaNa so much .. I wish I could have rescued her.

  • Lrlacey

    You are so right on. They only get good care if the family is totally committed to seeing that they do.

  • phyllia

    My father walked into hospice care after his wife decided she didn’t want to care for him. Three days later he was dead.

  • Jesuslove

    fucked up

  • Susie

    Thank you for addressing this issue. Currently I am attending a CNA course in Kansas. Kansas requires atleast 90 hours of instruction before you can work in a regulated long term care facility. The responsibilties of the CNA include bathing, feeding, dressing, perineal care, ambulating, observing, transferring, watching for bed sores or changes in their health condition; recording diet intake and developing a repor with the patients or residents. The CNA spends more time with residents compared to any of the other healthcare staff. This is a huge responsibility for one person to care for multiple people at one time. To work this job, one MUST be compassionate and empathetic, however, it takes teamwork. Friends, family and medical staff must work together. Seniors are great people. Take the time to care

  • Autieingluenfaou

    See “nursing nightmares” on you tube for a reality check on dangerous, deceptive nurses that work with autistic persons. The mom of this autistic boy kicks ass

  • Johnny

    Our relative entered a 10 person adult residential care facility in California. She went in weighing 119 lbs and feisty. Shortly after she went in she was placed under secret forced conservatorship. She died weighing less than 77 lbs with open lesions, severe bruising drugged on anti psychotics, dropped in the shower and never taken to hospital and on forced hospice. These facilities need to be closed and shut down.

  • Johnny

    Our relative entered a 10 person adult residential care facility in California. She went in weighing 119 lbs and feisty. Shortly after she went in she was placed under secret forced conservatorship. She died weighing less than 77 lbs with open lesions, severe bruising drugged on anti psychotics, dropped in the shower and never taken to hospital and on forced hospice. These facilities need to be closed and shut down.

  • Idealhealth13

    Where was her family as she lost 42 #? Where was her family as she was placed on new medication? Where was family as she was developing and suffering from open lesions and severe bruising? Was the family absent from the area or just too busy and disinterested? Shame on the facility but greater shame to the family who should have been her greatest ally.

    It can be the best facility with no records of violations but it still is no free ride. Families need to be present often and without schedule. Families need to do a physical inspection of the loved ones extremities and even look for pressure areas on the buttocks, heels, elbows, shoulders, shoulder blades and ears. Pull those covers back. Use your eyes to see, nose to smell and powers of observation plus intuition. Demand to look at the facility permanent record of your loved one. If you are not the DPOA, have that person do so on a regular basis.

  • Sandra

    As a resident of California, the licensing agency in the Department of Social and Health Services does not enforce the laws when complaints are made. My mother’s assistant living facility had repeated complaints including from our family to the local ombudsman. These complaints were passed on and finally a licensing evaluator called me.She confirmed that “they try to work with the facilitity to remedy the problems”, but
    implied it took a great deal to have the aagency revoke a license. We were forced to move my mother because she has dementia and was really in danger of mistreatment. To be fair, I am imagining that the licensing agency is over whelmed and perhaps, under staffed.