A partially out-of-focus shot of an elderly woman holding a cane in her left hand, and her head in her right hand.

Many people wonder what happens to an elderly loved one in a nursing home when family members aren’t around.

We all want our relatives to be well-cared for, and sometimes we simply don’t have the ability to give them the care they need at home. Nursing home facilities exist to provide this care, but if they don’t properly screen and monitor employees, abuse or neglect may occur.

Unfortunately, this happens much more frequently than you might think – the World Health Organization found that 2 out of 3 nursing home employees have admitted to abusing a patient in the past year.

Can a Summit County Nursing Home Abuse Attorney if You Suspect a Loved One Is Being Abused?

Yes. First, we’ll reiterate our earlier point about not accusing the staff of wrongdoing, even if it’s clear to you that something is wrong.

We say this because you don’t want to inadvertently make things worse for your family member after you leave. If you want to move your family member to another facility, make sure you have one lined up before letting the staff know.

Some people find there are long waiting lists at other nursing homes and that they really have no immediate way to move their relatives.

Aside from searching for another facility, the best thing you can do if you suspect nursing home abuse is to talk with a Summit County nursing home abuse lawyer. We’ll review your case and help you gather evidence of the abuse your loved one suffered.

After your loved one has been moved to a different care home, we can also help them file a lawsuit against the responsible parties. If you or another relative have power of attorney, you can file the lawsuit on their behalf.

Should You Put a Hidden Camera in Your Relative’s Room at the Nursing Home?

We understand the urge to know what’s going on when you can’t be with your loved one but don’t put hidden surveillance devices in your family member’s room without speaking to a lawyer first.

It’s not technically illegal because Colorado doesn’t have specific laws about cameras in nursing home rooms. However, in some situations, you may run afoul of other privacy and consent laws.

For example, you could get in trouble by recording a roommate or another patient who visits your family member’s room and doesn’t know about the camera.

If you and your relative want a camera in the room, you may be able to use one with the facility’s permission and a sign letting visitors know they’re being recorded. If the facility allows it, this may discourage staff from mistreating the patient.

However, there is no guarantee that a camera will prevent all abuse or neglect. Caregivers might wait until they move your relative out of their room before mistreating them, for instance.

But in other cases, a caregiver may forget about the camera and commit an act of abuse while being recorded. For this reason, if you use a camera, we recommend a system with ample space to record video.

What Damages Are  Available for a Relative Who Was Abused in a Nursing Home?

Your family member can seek compensation for any damages they suffered due to nursing home abuse or neglect, including:

  • Medical expenses related to the abuse. If your loved one developed bedsores from being neglected, for example, they deserve compensation for any medical costs associated with treatment.
  • Pain and suffering. The physical and emotional pain of nursing home abuse can last long after the abuse has ended, with many patients becoming anxious or depressed. PTSD is also common. For these reasons, your family member can seek damages for their suffering and loss of quality of life.
  • Property damage or financial losses. If a staff member stole or damaged the patient’s personal items, cleaned out their accounts, or committed other acts of financial abuse, we can pursue compensation for all losses.
  • Punitive damages. These aren’t always available but are sometimes awarded when the defendant’s actions were considered particularly egregious. This will require proving the defendant’s actions amounted to fraud, malice, or willful or wanton conduct.

How Can You Tell if a Loved One Is Being Abused in a Nursing Home?

One of the best ways to prevent nursing home abuse and detect it quickly if it does happen is to be as involved with your loved one as possible. Visit as often as you can, and try to do so at random times.

If the facility’s staff members know that you only visit from 2-4 PM every Sunday, they’ll know to be extra nice to Grandma during those two hours. The rest of the time? They’ll know that no one will be around to check up on them.

Of course, it’s not always possible to see your loved ones as much as you’d like, especially if you don’t live close to the facility. If you can’t visit frequently, consider enlisting other family members or friends to drop in on your relatives randomly and often.

This lets the facility’s staff know that their patient has a large and involved family who show up unpredictably, so they will need to be on their best behavior all the time.

While this strategy reduces the risk of abuse, it’s still possible your relative could be mistreated when no one is around, so here are some warning signs to look out for:

  • Unexplained injuries. These include broken bones, sprains, dislocations, bruises, or lacerations. If you notice new injuries, try to find out what happened, but avoid accusing the staff of wrongdoing. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help prevent future injuries, such as bringing non-slip socks or a mobility device. Be wary if the explanation you receive is vague or doesn’t really answer the question of what happened. For instance, if you ask how your uncle broke his wrist and a staff member shrugs and says, “Senior citizens have brittle bones,” you might not be getting the full story. Yes, brittle bones are common in older adults, but they still indicate the person had an injury. Additionally, nursing home facilities have multiple protocols to help prevent these kinds of injuries precisely because older people are more vulnerable to broken bones.
  • Your family member doesn’t seem to be properly medicated. If you notice signs they aren’t taking their medication, the staff may have neglected to give them the correct dose on time. Another issue might be if the patient always seems to be heavily sedated with no apparent reason why.
  • Marks around the wrists and ankles, which might indicate the patient was restrained. There are some legitimate uses of restraints in hospitals and care facilities, but in other cases, the patient is restrained merely for the staff’s convenience. If you notice signs of restraint use, ask why your relative was restrained and if they have any new health concerns you should know about.
  • Broken eyeglasses, hearing aids, or mobility devices. Another unpleasant situation that sometimes occurs is when a staff member breaks or hides a patient’s mobility device to “punish” them or keep them from moving around the facility.
  • Odd behavior from a caregiver. If a nurse, orderly, or other caregiver doesn’t want to leave you alone with your loved one, seems to be rushing you to leave, or otherwise acts like they don’t want you around, you might have cause for concern.
  • Changes in your loved one’s behavior. If they seem withdrawn, fearful, or just not their usual self, they might be reacting to an abusive situation. However, sometimes health problems can also cause behavioral or personality changes, so a checkup may be in order.
  • Bedsores. These occur when a patient with health issues spends most or all of their time in bed, which puts pressure on various areas of the body. Bedsores can be prevented by a healthcare worker turning or moving the patient regularly, so if a family member has bedsores, this is often a sign of neglect.
  • Other indications of neglect. If you notice your family member appears dirty or ungroomed, if their clothes aren’t changed daily, or if other hygiene issues exist, the patient may not be getting the care they need.
  • Sudden changes in financial situation. Not all abuse is physical – financial abuse is also common in care facilities. If you notice your loved one suddenly has money problems when they were doing all right before, there may be a problem. Other signs include missing money or valuables from your family member’s room, sudden changes to add a beneficiary to an insurance policy, adding someone to their bank accounts, etc.

Where Can I Find a Summit County Nursing Home Abuse Law Firm?

Please contact the Olson Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation about your nursing home abuse case. We’ll review what’s happened and explain the options for helping you or your loved one out of this challenging situation.

Our first priority is helping you find a solution to get the patient out of harm’s way. Later on, if you want to proceed with your case, our investigative team will collect evidence against the nursing home or staff members responsible for the abuse.

We’ll consult medical experts, your loved one’s records, witnesses, available recordings, and any other data to show a clear pattern of abusive or neglectful behavior.

Sean Olson established Olson Personal Injury Lawyers to help injured people tell their stories and seek compensation for their damages. He personally meets with every client and is always available to answer questions or respond to your concerns.

Contact Olson Personal Injury Lawyers today. Dial (303) 586-7297  for your no-obligation consultation.