Denver Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys
Having an elderly parent or friend in a nursing home or other type of long-term care facility is wrenching enough—worrying about whether your loved one is being neglected or abused while in a nursing home is even more traumatic. Unfortunately, nursing home injuries as a result of abuse or neglect happen more often than we want to believe. At the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya, we believe this vulnerable population should be protected, and we will fight aggressively to ensure those protections are implemented. Having a loved one neglected or abused in a nursing home you trusted to care for them can be devastating for all those involved, and we believe you deserve experienced, compassionate representation.
Facts About Nursing Home Abuse
According to the Nursing Home Abuse Guide, between 1999 and 2001, as many as a third of all nursing home facilities were cited for federal standards violations which either could or did cause harm to elderly nursing home residents. At least ten percent of those nursing homes had violations which posed a risk of serious injury or death to the elderly residents.
As many as 90 percent of nursing home residents have reported that either they or another resident have suffered neglect, and as many as 40 percent of nursing home residents have reported abuse. A report from 2010 indicated that half of all nursing home attendants admitted to neglect or abuse of elderly patients, and more than half of all CNA’s who work in elder care facilities have admitted verbally abusing, yelling at or using foul language with elderly residents in nursing homes.
Unfortunately, statistics on elder abuse and neglect in nursing homes are frequently incomplete because residents of these homes are unable to effectively communicate neglect or abuse due to mental or physical infirmities. Others who are able to communicate may not do so out of fear of retaliation from nursing home staff members. Nursing home residents often suffer a pervasive sense of helplessness, feeling they have no alternative to their current situation.
Signs and Symptoms of Nursing Home Abuse
Often, one of the first signs of elder abuse or neglect involve changes in behavior or personality in the elderly person or tensions between the elderly person and nursing home staff. If you have any reason to suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, consider the following signs and symptoms:
Physical abuse signs include the following:
- Unexplained bruises;
- Unexplained sprains, dislocations or broken bones;
- Failure to give the patient prescribed medication;
- Any sign of restraint, such as marks on the wrist or ankles;
- Broken eyeglasses which occur often;
- Refusal of a caregiver to allow loved ones to be alone with the elderly patient;
- Chronic infections;
- Malnutrition, and
- Rapid weight loss or weight gain.
Emotional abuse signs include the following:
- Unusual behaviors which can mimic symptoms of dementia;
- Rocking behaviors;
- Refusal to talk to loved ones;
- Observing nursing home staff engaging in demeaning behavior toward the elderly patient;
- Observing nursing home staff humiliating the elderly patient;
- Observing the needs of the elderly person being routinely ignored;
- Observing nursing home staff intimidating or behaving in a menacing manner toward the elderly patient;
- Isolating the elderly patient from friends and family, or
- Isolating the elderly patient from nursing home activities.
Sexual abuse signs include the following:
- Bruising near the genitals or around the breasts;
- Torn or blood underwear;
- Unexplained STDs, or
- Vaginal or anal bleeding which is not related to a legitimate medical condition.
Neglect signs include the following:
- An elderly patient who is unsuitably dressed for the weather;
- Unsafe living conditions;
- Unsanitary living conditions;
- Dirty clothing;
- Soiled bedding;
- Failing to take proper steps to keep the elderly person from falling;
- An elderly patient who is chronically heavily medicated, or
- Frequent infections.
How Nursing Home Abuse Can Go Unnoticed
Unfortunately, elder abuse in nursing homes often goes unnoticed. Unlike children, the elderly do not attend a school where someone watches over their well-being. Physical isolation occurs once an elder is placed in a nursing home, particularly if their loved ones do not live near enough to visit frequently, or to make unscheduled visits. The elderly patients often do not report abuse and neglects because they rely so heavily on their abusers for their every need, because they are ashamed, or because they fear retaliation.
In other words, the elderly are particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect, which then result in nursing home injuries. Finally, nursing home abuse and neglect can be overlooked due to the fact that staff members “explain” the signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect by attributing them to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Family members find these explanations credible because, after all, their loved one is getting older.
How to Choose a Nursing Home
It is never pleasant to consider placing a loved one in a nursing home, however it can be impossible to offer full-time in-home care for many, leaving a nursing home or other long-term care facility the only option. It can be helpful to research the nursing homes in your area, finding those which best meet the needs of your elderly loved one. Often, there is not much time to make such an important decision, as there may be a rapid change in the elderly person’s mental or physical health which require immediate placement.
Other times, nursing home placement begins when an elderly person is recovering from a surgical procedure. If your loved one is capable of making his or her wishes known, it is important that you acknowledge those wishes to the extent possible while still being ready to make necessary decisions on his or her behalf. Obviously, this can be an extremely emotional time, however it can be made easier when you have a professional, such as a social worker or physician helping you make these tough decisions.
You might want to first consider the location and size of the potential nursing homes, keeping in mind that you will want to keep your loved one as physically close as possible, allowing you to keep a closer eye on his or her care. While a 45-minute or hour-long drive might seem “doable” at first, consider making that drive after a long day at work on a frequent basis. Consider the personality of your loved one—are they introverted and quiet, or social and outgoing?
Would a nursing home with more people and more activities provide the best environment? Is your loved one still relatively mobile? If so, you might want to consider nursing homes which allow them to get outside and walk around. Is the nursing home fully accessible? Does it appear safe and secure? Does the facility have plenty of space, offering both quiet areas as well as activity spaces?
Consider the services offered by individual nursing homes. Specifically, consider the meals and dining experience, which have been shown to make a huge difference in the overall satisfaction of nursing home residents. Because of this, you should always visit a nursing home during mealtimes prior to making a final decision. Find out whether the residents are provided with plenty of help to drink and eat during mealtimes. If your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s, ensure there is a specialized unit to offer the necessary care. If your loved one needs rehabilitation, having an on-site rehabilitation unit can be extremely helpful.
Since the staff members at the nursing home will be the ones who ensure the safety of your loved one, take particular note of staff attitude, professionalism and expertise. Ask lots of questions of staff members and observe them for a significant length of time prior to making a final decision. Look for staff members who demonstrate a warm and respectful attitude toward the patients and take note of whether staff members knock on resident’s doors prior to entering and call the residents by their names. Ask about turnover rate of staff—a high turnover can be a sign of underlying problems.
Medicare.gov offers a helpful search tool which provides reports on different nursing homes based on your individual zip code. Facilities are rated on such factors as staffing violations, health inspections and much more. Finally, when all is said and done, trust your gut feeling about nursing homes you have visited. If you get a bad feeling about a nursing home, do not discount that feeling.
Steps to Take When You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
If you believe your loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, and has suffered nursing home injuries, there are specific steps you must take. First, ensure your loved one is not in immediate danger. If appropriate, call 911, and remove your loved one from the facility. Next, speak to the administrators of the nursing home, presenting your concerns clearly and concisely. Every nursing home or other long-term care facility should have a grievance resolution procedure you can follow.
Make sure you understand the rights your elderly loved one is entitled to, including dignity and respect, safety and an absence of fear. If you are unsatisfied with the facility’s response to your concerns, file a complaint with the appropriate state agency, such as an Adult Protective Services agency. Ensure everything is properly documented; take photographs of any nursing home injuries, keep all medical reports or accident reports, and write down absolutely everything which could potentially pertain to the nursing home abuse or neglect. Keep a comprehensive journal of your concerns when visiting your loved one, clearly documenting any events which could back up your claim of abuse or neglect.
Talk to an experienced nursing home injury attorney as quickly as possible. A knowledgeable nursing home abuse lawyer can help you pursue a civil lawsuit to recover compensation. While money cannot change the abuse or neglect your loved one endured, it can help pay for appropriate medical and nursing care. If your loved one suffered damages such as medical expenses, emotional distress and/or pain and suffering, the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya can help you.
How an Experienced Colorado Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Can Help
If your elderly loved one has suffered nursing home injuries as a result of neglect and/or abuse, the nursing home neglect and abuse lawyers at the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya know the laws, procedures and guidelines which govern nursing home care in the state of Colorado. We will always treat you, your family members and the elderly person who suffering nursing home injuries with compassion and respect, while working aggressively to protect your loved one and obtain the compensation and justice they deserve. Contact the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya today for a free evaluation of your nursing home neglect case. There is no obligation; a nursing home abuse attorney will review your situation, determine your legal options, and explain how we believe you should proceed.