Finding a nursing home in northwestern Washington

How to find out if a nursing home has a history of elder abuse or neglect

The decision to entrust a loved one’s care to a nursing home or long-term care facility is never easy. Selecting the facility can be just as overwhelming as the initial decision itself.

How can I find out if a nursing home has a history of elder abuse or neglect?

Washington state has approximately 200 licensed long-term care nursing facilities that provide care for more than 12,500 patients each year – it’s no wonder selecting a single, high-quality facility can seem like you are trying to find a needle in a haystack. However, the federal government has provided a tool that can make it easier to avoid facilities that may create an unsafe environment for your loved one.

Nursing Home Compare site

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) helps set standards across the nation for long-term care facilities and administer Medicaid and Medicaid payments. They host a website called Nursing Home Compare, which provides data that can help families — including those living in Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties — research facilities and find out information to help them decide on the right place for themselves or their loved one.

Currently, nursing homes receive an overall rating, which is determined by combining the results of three categories:

  • Staffing;
  • Quality measures; and
  • Health inspections.

Consumer alert icon

CMS recently implemented an additional tool on Nursing Home Compare to inform consumers about facilities that may pose risks to their loved ones. Now, a red icon with a white hand in the center next to a facility indicates that they have received a citation for abuse, exploitation, and/or neglect within the past year, or abuse that potentially harmed patients within in the past two years. The icon is updated monthly and will be removed if the facilities go a year without receiving any additional citations for abuse. Abuse can include a broad variety of behaviors, such as physical abuse, verbal abuse, or even failure to properly treat a patient’s medical needs.

It’s important to know that even though these icons provide helpful information and should prompt additional investigation and questions on your part, they don’t provide a complete picture. Abuse citations are still relatively rare – they are only issued once a state agency investigates complaints and can substantiate the claim with evidence. However, the number of federal standard violations doubled between 2013 – 2017 to a staggering 875, which does not include violations that were not reported nor investigated.


What can I do if a loved one was harmed in a nursing home?

If you or a loved one has been injured at a nursing home in the Puget Sound region, contact the offices of Walton Law, APC at (360) 526-6899. Or, you can visit waltonlawapc.com/ to sign up for a no obligation, free initial case evaluation to answer your questions, explain the legal process, and show you how we can help make the best of a bad situation.

Christopher Walton, founder and managing partner of Walton Law. The firm was named one of the best law firms by U.S. News & World Report.

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