Nursing homes throughout our state are designed to provide a high level of care to the residents that they serve.
To be sure, not only are there specific licensing requirements for nursing homes, but nursing homes are also tasked with providing 24/7 nursing care; room and board for residents; assistance with even the most basic of daily activities, such as bathing; and rehabilitation and specialized services, such as dementia care, in some cases.
As such, it’s no wonder that when your loved one is staying within a Denver nursing home, you have an expectation that they will receive the care, attention, and support they need; neglect and abuse may be the furthest things from your mind.
Unfortunately, Denver nursing home abuse and neglect happens more often than it should, and when it does, affected nursing home residents are at risk of injury and harm. If you believe that your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse, you should act quickly. Our Denver nursing home abuse attorneys can help.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Nursing home abuse and neglect can come in various forms. Being able to recognize the signs of different types of abuse and neglect is important.
- Physical abuse. Physical abuse is the most blatant type of nursing home abuse, and the easiest for a third-party to identify. Physical abuse refers to hitting, kicking, biting, punching, pinching, improperly restraining, burning, or otherwise using physical force to control, intimidate, threaten, or cause harm to a resident. Physical abuse can also include intentionally depriving a resident of food or drink, or even abusing the resident’s medication by refusing medication or using medication to control the resident (i.e. overly sedating a resident).
- Sexual abuse. Sexual abuse of a nursing home resident is a heinous act, but one that happens nonetheless. This type of abuse involves any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact between a nursing home resident and a nursing home staff member. You may be able to recognize sexual abuse by both the physical and psychological symptoms that result, including bruising, torn clothing, bleeding or bloodied undergarments, the appearance of a sexually-transmitted infection, withdrawal, anger, and other emotional changes.
- Emotional/psychological abuse. Not all types of abuse are physical; emotional or psychological abuse is extremely common in nursing homes. This type of abuse involves using tactics such as harassing or bullying the nursing home resident, refusing to allow the resident to participate in social activities, teasing the resident, refusing to provide the resident with any social stimulation, refusing to let the resident spend time with family and loved ones who come to visit, or otherwise using speech or actions to intimidate or threaten the resident. While emotional and psychological abuse may appear to be less acutely dangerous to a resident’s health and wellbeing than is sexual or physical abuse, emotional abuse can have multiple physical consequences; the brain and the body are strongly linked.
- Financial exploitation. Understanding that elderly persons within a nursing home are often vulnerable and easier to manipulate as such, some nursing home employees will view working with nursing home residents as an opportunity to acquire financial gain, and will engage in financial exploitation of residents. Financial exploitation of a nursing home resident could mean convincing a nursing home patient to open a new credit card, change a will or estate planning document, make a large cash withdrawal, take out a new loan, and more. It may also mean directly stealing from the nursing home resident. As the loved one of someone who is within a nursing home, you should keep your eyes out for any major changes to your loved one’s financial picture.
- Neglect is a type of nursing home negligence and malpractice that is less obvious than is abuse. Abuse is intentional; the abusive caretaker intends to hurt, harm, intimidate, threaten, or manipulate the elderly person. Neglect, on the other hand, is often unintentional, and may be the result of understaffing and a poor patient-to-staff ratio. Acts of neglect might include failing to bathe a patient or otherwise assist with personal hygiene, leaving a patient unattended in their bed for hours at a time, failing to ensure that a resident is receiving proper nutrition/hydration, a lack of proper or appropriate medical care, failing to assist a patient with walking and mobility, and more. A deterioration of health, poor hygiene, bed sores, unexplained injuries, and weight loss are all signs of potential nursing home neglect.
Injuries that Can Happen as a Result of Nursing Home Abuse
When nursing home abuse or neglect is occurring, the injuries that a nursing home resident may suffer as a result are very serious. Elderly people, especially those with serious health conditions, are not nearly as resilient as are younger adults, and something as seemingly as innocuous as a minor fall injury could have severe, or even fatal, consequences.
Some of the types of injuries and patient harm that are most common when nursing home abuse and neglect are occurring (and which vary depending upon the type of abuse/neglect) include:
- Slip and fall injuries;
- Bone fractures;
- Bedrail injuries, including bedrail entrapment and strangulation;
- Dehydration leading to digestive issues, urinary tract infections, kidney issues, and more;
- Wandering and getting lost (if residents aren’t properly supervised, they may leave the facility, and could be at risk of any number of accidents as such);
- Medication errors leading to a serious deterioration in condition or death;
- Untreated diseases or conditions; and
In addition to the physical harm that may befall a nursing home patient, note that all types of abuse and neglect can have psychological impacts on a nursing home resident too, including depression, anxiety, and a diminished quality of life. For elderly people, something like depression can be dangerous, leading to social isolation, malnutrition, and even suicide or early natural death.
What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
If you suspect that nursing home abuse is occurring, you should act immediately. It is important to document any signs of abuse that you can, and to gather and record any evidence of abuse.
If you believe that your loved one is at imminent risk of bodily harm, you should call 911 immediately. Otherwise, you should act by reporting the nursing home abuse to a nursing home manager; reporting the suspected abuse to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and calling an experienced Denver nursing home abuse attorney to explore your legal options.
Is Nursing Home Abuse Illegal? Can I File a Lawsuit?
If nursing home abuse is occurring, there may be both criminal and civil consequences for the abusive party/nursing home. And even when an abusive or neglectful action doesn’t constitute a crime, nursing home abuse or neglect will always be negligent at the very least, and a party may be able to bring forth a negligence case against the nursing home facility for such conduct.
A nursing home abuse action is a type of civil suit that seeks to hold the at-fault party and nursing home facility liable for a patient’s harm, allowing the patient (or the personal representative of the party in the event that the nursing home patient is not mentally competent or has died as a result of abuse) to seek compensation for the full extent of losses suffered as a result of the abuse, including compensation for pain, suffering, medical expenses, diminished quality of life, and any other economic or noneconomic losses.
What You Must Prove in a Nursing Home Abuse Claim
A nursing home abuse or neglect claim follows the same outline as the majority of personal injury and medical malpractice claims. In this type of suit, the plaintiff must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that:
- The nursing home owed a duty of care to the patient – By virtue of being within a nursing home, this is implied. Nursing home and medical providers within a nursing home, such as doctors and nurses, owe a high duty of care to all nursing home residents.
- Breach of standard of care – The plaintiff must establish that the nursing home facility breached the standard of care owed to the patient via an act of abuse or neglect.
- Causation – In addition to proving that a breach of the standard of care occurred (negligence/malpractice), the plaintiff must prove that the nursing home resident’s harm would not have occurred but for the breach of the standard of care.
- Damages – Finally, in addition to the above, the fact that actual damages were suffered (i.e. physical harm, additional medical expenses, etc.) must be demonstrated.
Why Work with a Denver Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
Learning that your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse neglect or abuse is shocking, unexpected, and heart-wrenching. At the Olson Law Firm, our nursing home abuse lawyers in Denver are here to advocate for you and your family. When you suspect nursing home abuse, or believe that nursing home abuse has led to a resident’s harm, call our team for a free consultation about your legal options and what steps to take to protect your loved one. We are here to serve you – reach us today by phone or online to get started.