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Did assisted living home have a role in woman’s death?

SHORELINE — Paul Harshman’s mother was a tough woman.

LUHARSHMANDivorced at 25, she raised three boys and worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. As she grew older, Paul’s mother began to suffer from schizophrenia and dementia. He and his brothers decided the best thing for her was to find an assisted living home.

Everything was going fine, until December.

“They brought her a sandwich and she was eating in her bed. Either she requested a cup of coffee or they went to get her one. The caregiver was gone 15 minutes and when she returned my mother was slumped over,” Harshman said.

Paul said his 75-year-old mother had a feeding tube off and on and wasn’t used to eating solid food on her own.

“She should have been eating in the kitchen where she would have been supervised the whole time or they should have been there with her and not left for 15 minutes,” he said.

The group Disability Rights Washington said this is not an isolated case. It reviewed all adult family home mistreatment complaints in the state since 2010 and what they found was alarming. According to Department of Social and Health Services records, 85 percent of those complaints were never investigated and those that were, the watchdog group said, were not done in a timely manner.

“DSHS was very delayed in initiating an investigation and investigations — in our opinion — were often not very thorough in terms of who was interviewed, what records were reviewed and the provider was not held accountable,” Susan Kas said.

This year, Kas and her colleagues have been meeting with DSHS to find ways to address those concerns. On Friday, the committee will vote on recommendations for change, which could include allowing the state to fine adult family home owners and caregivers and increase the number of case workers to investigate complaints.

Paul Harshman still finds it hard to cope with his mother’s death, especially because he’s convinced it could have been prevented.

“I miss her a lot. She was a great lady and she had some tread left on her. She was going to be around for a while longer. That’s another reason why I feel like I have to honor her death by trying to make things better for others in the future,” Harshman said.

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