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Thoughts on Growing Old and Not Being Cared For: Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes

Memories Of A Nursing Home

I am no longer immortal, although for most of my life I was. When I was a young child growing up on a farm with my brother and two sisters, we lived in the madness of the moment, climbing and jumping out of trees, having dirt clod battles, and crashing bikes with reckless abandon. When I was a teenager, I lived in the world of teenage madness, doing things that I now reminisce about with my high school and college classmates on the infrequent occasions that we get together, all of us intoning in wonder, “How in the world did we not die?” When I was a twenty-something, thirty-something, forty-something parent of two boys, I lived in the madness of raising babies, toddlers, pre-teens, and teenagers trying to care for them and teach them, and I must admit, to a large degree being concerned with and trying to keep them alive and safe. When I was middle-aged….Wait, what? When I was middle-aged? The slap in the face came when I got the AARP membership application in the mail. I threw it away without opening it. And the next one. But I finally opened it. And when I joined then I knew and finally admitted to being, at least, middle-aged and maybe no longer immortal. I still refuse to take the Senior Discounts at restaurants and other businesses open to the public – although I will take advantage of them when online shopping. The first ten minutes of my conversations with my peers are now comprised mainly of everyone complaining of bodily ailments. We are growing older and having an increasing dialogue with mortality and elder care.

I remember my first visit to a nursing home. My parents loaded me and my siblings into the station wagon and drove into town to a complex of one-story brick buildings set on clean, green lawns. My Daddy said to be quiet and not run around and make a fuss because there were a lot of old people there who were sick like Great Aunt Clara. We had overheard the telephone conversations about her declining health and finally we were told she was being put into a nursing home. My Momma said to say “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am” to the ladies and “yes sir” or “no sir” to the gentlemen and to be a good reflection on the family. Aunt Clara was happy to see us and exclaimed how much we had grown and how proud of us she was because we were doing so well and school and how good-looking we children were. I was too young to appreciate moments such as these or to see the world through mortal eyes, but somehow I could sense that Aunt Clara had reconciled life and mortality and accepted that she would likely not be returning to the white house with the green shutters and wrap-around veranda.

We can always be there for our family and loved ones in our hearts, but we cannot always be there in person. When we must place our family and loved ones in someone else’s care, we hope and pray that they will lovingly be cared for. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Sometimes they are neglected. And sometimes, horrible as it is to imagine, they are abused.

What Is Nursing Home Abuse And Neglect?

When nursing home staff either intentionally act, or fail to act, and cause or create the risk of harm to the nursing home resident, nursing home abuse and/or neglect has occurred. See Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) 26-3.1-101 for the full legal definition in the state of Colorado.

In this blog, we are referring to a “skilled nursing care facility,” which means a nursing care facility that is federally certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A skilled nursing care facility (nursing home) is a facility for people who cannot be cared for at home, but don’t need to be in a hospital. Because nursing home residents need access to skilled healthcare 24 hours a day, nursing homes are staffed by registered and practical nurses, certified medication technicians, and certified nursing assistants.

Residents at skilled nursing homes are considered “at-risk adults” according to Colorado law. That means they are 18 years of age or older and are unable to (either physically or psychologically) take care of their own health, safety, or welfare.

Though nursing homes are not limited to elders, more than 500,000 adults aged 60 and older are abused or neglected each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And, keep in mind that not all abuse is reported. Below are the common types of nursing home abuse and neglect:

Nursing Home Abuse:

PHYSICAL ABUSEPhysical abuse is when a caregiver intentionally or non-accidentally uses physical force on a nursing home resident that results in injury, pain, impairment, distress, or death. Examples include “substantial or multiple skin bruising, bleeding, malnutrition, dehydration, burns, bone fractures, poisoning, subdural hematoma, soft tissue swelling, or suffocation.”

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is when a caregiver commits forced or unwanted sexual interaction of any kind via touching or non-touching acts upon a nursing home resident.

Psychological And Verbal Abuse

Psychological and/or verbal abuse is when a caregiver inflicts mental or emotional pain, fear, or distress upon a nursing home resident. This could be done via name calling, making threats, isolating or secluding the resident, or controlling the resident’s access to various resources (e.g., money, food, transportation).

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is when a caregiver uses a nursing home resident’s financial resources for the benefit of themselves or someone other than the resident. This can also include depriving access to monetary resources or assets. Examples include forgery and deception to surrender assets.

Nursing Home Neglect:

Nursing home neglect occurs when caregivers fail to meet the necessary medical care or treatment needs, nutritional needs, hygienic needs, provide adequate safety and supervision. It can also be when medical treatment is not provided in a timely manner with the degree of care that a reasonable healthcare provider in the same situation would exercise for a nursing home resident.

If you suspect you or your loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect in Colorado, the attorneys at Mac Hester Law are here for you. We do recommend you first report* the nursing home abuse or neglect incident(s) (and keep a record of your report) to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment(CDPHE) in one of the following ways:

Online

Online Complaint Intake Form

Information required for the online intake form (and what you should include if you use one of the other forms of contact):

  • Who was involved.
  • What happened.
  • When it happened.
  • How it happened.
  • Where it happened.

Email

Send your email to cdphe.hfdintake@state.co.us

The Subject line should read: Nursing Home Complaint Intake

Mail

Send your letter to the following address:

CDPHE, HFEMSD-C1

Attention: Nursing Home Complaint Intake

4300 Cherry Creek Drive South

Denver, CO 80246-1530

Phone

(303) 692-2442

1-800-886-7689, ext. 2442

*Note: You can report your concern anonymously. For more information on how to file a complaint and  learn about CDPHE’s investigation process, click here.

Need Help With A Possible Nursing Home Abuse Or Neglect Case?

Acting quickly in situations such as these can literally be the difference in life and death in some cases, and the situation must be handled properly. Time is of the essence because Colorado law limits the time in which you may file a lawsuit.

We at Mac Hester Law care about your loved one’s health, safety, and well-being. We are here to help. If you need assistance or have questions regarding Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect in Colorado, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. There is absolutely no obligation. If, due to your injuries, you can’t make it to our location, we will come to you.