Who is “vulnerable” to nursing home abuse?

As I mentioned previously, nursing home abuse isn’t necessarily exclusive to those 65 years old and older.

In states such as Washington and Minnesota, “vulnerable adult” is used to refer to those who are alleged victims of nursing home abuse. Vulnerable adult is a broader category of individuals than the elderly and they are also frequent victims of nursing home abuse. The term is used in various states laws, including Washington and Minnesota. In Washington, “vulnerable adult” includes a person

a)     Sixty years of age or older who has the functional, mental, or physical inability to care for himself or herself; or

b)     Found incapacitated under chapter 11.88 RCW; or

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

d)     Admitted to any facility; or

e)     Receiving services from home health, hospice, or home care agencies licensed or required to be licensed under chapter 70.127 RCW; or

f)       Receiving services from an individual provider; or

g)     Who self-directs his or her own care and receives services from a personal aide under chapter 74.39 RCW.

At the federal level, the Omnibus Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1987 was an important turning point in showing a serious commitment to ensuring better care for vulnerable adults. Included in the OBRA of 1987 was the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) with a Residents’ Bill of Rights. The goal of NHRA: To ensure that nursing home residents receive quality care that will result in their achieving/maintain their “highest practicable” physical, mental psychosocial well-being. While the NHRA was passed in 1987, the law did not truly become effective until the United States Department of Health and Human Services implemented regulations on September 26, 1991.

The NHRA specifies the services a nursing home must provide to its residents. The Act also lays out the standards for these services.  Among the required services: individualized comprehensive care plan, periodic assessments for each resident, nursing services, rehabilitation services, pharmaceutical services, dietary services. For nursing homes with more than 120 beds, a full-time social worker is required.

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