Nursing homes are meant to provide a safe, communal living experience for older adults who require assistance. While some seniors would prefer to stay in their own homes, this may not be feasible for various reasons.
Often, a nursing home is the best option for adults who can no longer live alone. While a good nursing home can provide the care and support your elderly loved one needs, nursing home abuse is still a common problem, so it’s essential to remain vigilant.
Here are some tips to help you prevent and recognize nursing home abuse:
- Visit your loved one as often as possible, and try to come at unpredictable times. You don’t necessarily have to stay for a long time on each visit. If you frequently drop by just to say hello or see your relative for a few minutes, the staff will know that you could show up any time. This encourages staff members to always be on their best behavior around your family member.
- You are also more likely to notice any concerning changes in your loved one if you visit frequently. If this isn’t possible because you live far away or have a hectic schedule with work and family, consider asking other relatives to drop in on your family member.
- If you notice your relative has any changes in mood or personality, such as becoming quiet and withdrawn when they were previously more gregarious, ask their caregivers about it in a non-accusatory way. For example, “I notice Mom hasn’t seemed like herself on the last few visits. Do you think she might be depressed? Should we schedule a doctor’s visit?” This serves the dual purpose of letting staff members know you’re paying attention and ensuring your relative gets to see a doctor. It’s important to understand that behavioral or mood changes can be a sign of elder abuse but could also be caused by physical or mental health issues unrelated to their care.
- Knowing what your relative is usually like can also help you recognize issues with overmedicating or undermedicating. If you often notice that your loved one behaves like they haven’t had their medication, the staff may not be managing prescriptions carefully.
- Make note of any bruises, scratches, or new injuries, especially if these are out of the ordinary. You should never accuse staff members of hurting your relative because you don’t want a care home employee to be angry with them after you leave. However, you can ask how an injury happened or if anything can be done to help prevent further injuries.
- If nursing home staff members brush off your concerns or don’t seem to know or care how a significant injury happened, that could be a sign of a problem. Quietly take pictures of your loved one’s injuries, write down what you do know, and talk to a nursing home abuse lawyer.
- If your family member has bed sores, that means the nursing facility staff aren’t taking care of them properly. Bed sores occur in immobile patients who tend to lie in one position for all or most of the day. They can be prevented by regularly moving or turning the patient, so if someone has bed sores, this is almost always a sign of neglect. Speak with a Breckenridge nursing home abuse lawyer right away.
- When your family member suddenly has financial problems or complains of being unable to afford something, this could be a sign of financial abuse, which is also common among elderly individuals. People who manage an elderly relative’s finances may also notice unusual withdrawals, new people being added to accounts, and other concerning developments.
- Getting to know the people who care for your loved one is also a good idea. You don’t have to be their best friend, but learning their names and exchanging a few pleasantries can help you build rapport. If you’re always polite and friendly, staff members may be more inclined to update you about your relative’s condition or let you know if there’s a problem. However, if there always seems to be someone new taking care of your family member, that may be a sign that the facility has a high turnover rate due to poor management.
Can a Breckenridge Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Help if Your Loved One Was Harmed in a Nursing Home?
Yes. If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, your Breckenridge nursing home abuse attorney can investigate and gather evidence against the facility.
Additionally, we will help you find a different living situation if you feel your relative isn’t safe where they are. Once they are out of the facility, we can assist you in filing a complaint with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
If you notice physical signs of abuse, such as bruises or other injuries, pictures can be helpful. Although it has become more popular to hide a video camera in a loved one’s room, we recommend you consult an attorney before doing so.
Colorado doesn’t have any legislation explicitly forbidding this, but in some instances, you may violate other privacy laws (such as when people besides your family member enter the room and are subject to recording without their consent).
In some cases, you can place a camera with the facility’s knowledge and permission, but this may not prevent the patient from being mistreated when they aren’t in their room.
Other Types of Evidence in Nursing Home Abuse Cases
Some people worry that they don’t have any evidence of the facility’s mistreatment of an elderly loved one. In many cases, our investigative team can find evidence you may not have considered.
Witness accounts can be beneficial – we may talk to other residents, former residents, or family members who moved their relative out of the facility due to similar issues. Occasionally these people even took pictures or videos of disturbing behavior by a staff member.
Finally, we will investigate whether the nursing home has a history of previous violations or citations from the state.
What Are Some Examples of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
Abuse and neglect can happen in multiple ways, and if you aren’t sure if something qualifies as abuse or neglect, it’s best to discuss the situation with an attorney. However, here are some of the more common situations we see in nursing home abuse and neglect cases:
- Falls. Each year, more than one in four adults over the age of 65 will have a fall. There are a number of aging-related conditions that increase this risk, and as a result, nursing homes are expected to take precautions to prevent falls. Patients who struggle with mobility or dizziness are often categorized as having a high fall risk, and the staff should take additional steps to protect them. For instance, they may need to help the patient up or walk beside them or provide a mobility device like a walker. If your loved one suffered a fall, the staff may not have used the proper precautions to protect them.
- Emotional abuse. If a staff member frequently yells, threatens, or belittles a patient, this could be abusive behavior.
- Neglect. If your relative is often dirty, hungry, thirsty, has bed sores, or doesn’t seem to have received their medication on schedule, they could be suffering neglect at the hands of the staff.
- Physical abuse. Sometimes staff members go so far as to hit or otherwise assault a patient. In other cases, there may also be sexual abuse or assault.
- Unnecessary use of restraints. Occasionally it is necessary to restrain a patient who is confused, agitated, and dangerous to themselves or others. However, these situations can sometimes be resolved with other means (such as medication). If they can’t be resolved through other methods, restraints should be used for as little time as possible. In some situations, we’ve found that employees restrained a patient simply so the staff wouldn’t have to deal with them or left the patient in restraints far longer than necessary.
- Financial exploitation or healthcare fraud. We’ve also seen cases where a staff member was very nice to the patient – so nice that the patient was coerced to write them into their will, add them to a bank account, give them a large sum of cash, etc. Sometimes the patient is suffering from dementia or otherwise not in a position to make major financial decisions at the time. With healthcare fraud, a facility employee may simply double-bill Medicare or private insurance or may put the patient through unnecessary procedures or treatments so they can bill for these as well.
How to Get Help From a Breckenridge Nursing Home Abuse Law Firm
It can be stressful and frustrating to wonder if your loved one is being mistreated or to know they are but struggle to find alternatives for their care.
If you believe or suspect someone you love has suffered abuse or neglect in a Colorado nursing home, please contact the Olson Law Firm at (720) 730-4325 for a free, confidential consultation.
We’ll answer your questions, help you determine what has happened, and explain your options to help your family member pursue damages.