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Seniors Abused in Washington’s Adult Family Homes

Ann Detlefs alleges that her husband, Darwin (pictured), was abused in a Seattle adult family home. (Photo courtesy of Ann Detlefs)This is one of our editors' picks from our ongoing roundup of Investigations Elsewhere.

Last weekend, The Seattle Times published a three-part investigation into the abuse and exploitation of thousands of elderly residents of adult family homes across Washington state.

Twenty years ago, Washington began licensing homeowners to house elderly residents in spare bedrooms and provide them with care. It soon began actively steering residents away from nursing homes and into this program. Today, 2,843 adult family homes house about 11,200 residents, and the state plans to keep adding more. According to the Times, the "pace of licensing is so furious that, on average, the state issues a new one every day."

But the Times examined 15 years of inspection reports and found case after case of neglect and abuse occurring in these homes. Elders have been roped to their beds at night, denied medical treatment, and, in "scores of cases, owners raked in monthly payments while they pinched pennies and eliminated meals, turned off the heat, or left residents in urine-soiled clothing for days."

Meanwhile, the state Department of Social and Health Services, which oversees the program, has repeatedly "excused reports of abuse and neglect, even when it knew that violators lied to its investigators, provided falsified medical records, or contributed to preventable deaths." What’s more, the agency can’t "answer such questions as: Which homes and how many didn't provide enough food? What homes had assaults on residents?"

DSHS officials told the Times that the agency’s standards are among the highest of states with adult family homes, and that the majority of such homes are run by caring, capable providers.

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