legal resources necessary to hold negligent facilities accountable.
Nursing Homes in Colorado
Currently, the State of Colorado has 219 nursing facilities, according to Medicare.gov. Of these, 134 (41%) nursing homes are ranked average, above average, and much above average compared to all facilities nationwide. Sadly, the remaining 85 (39%) nursing homes are rated below average, placing residents at significant risk of injury, harm, or wrongful death.
As seniors enter their golden years, there has been a growing need for nursing homes across the country, including in Colorado. Families often entrust the care of their loved ones to the care of medical experts to keep them safe in a comfortable environment, but sometimes these decisions aren't always easy.
However, many people are unaware that nursing homes in Colorado can be dangerous places for seniors and their families. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 1,000 residents die yearly from preventable health problems while residing in nursing homes.
The CDC also reports that nearly one-third of all deaths among older adults occur in these facilities. Some common examples of a lack of quality measures at nursing homes in Colorado include:
Failure to Protect Residents From all Forms of Abuse
All nursing homes in Colorado must protect their residents from mistreatment, including restraint, punishment, sexual assault, mental distress, physical abuse, and neglect.
After investigating numerous nursing homes across Colorado, state officials found multiple cases where nursing facilities failed to properly care for their residents.
There have been some reports of abuse, neglect, and maltreatment in Colorado nursing homes, including:
- Failure to keep residents free from abuse and harm and avoid being bitten, grabbed, and pinched by residents in the facility. (Bethany Nursing and Rehab Center)
- Failure to respond properly to alleged violations, including a resident's allegation of physical abuse. (Cedars Health Care Center)
- Failure to protect a resident who was verbally abused and threatened by his roommate who stated "he was going to kill someone." (Cherrelyn Health Care Center)
- Failure to protect residents from sexual abuse from one patient in the facility involving a Memory Care Unit (MCU) patient who was not allowed to leave required two staff members for supervision. (Cheyenne Mountain Center)
- Failure to ensure two residents were without restraints, Including one resident with the leg rest on the recliner propped up, causing them to be unable to get up and out of the recliner. (Colonial Health and Rehabilitation Center)
Failure to Protect Residents from Accident Hazards
Many residents at long-term care facilities are victims of accidents that could have been avoided if the staff, administrators, and nurses had adhered to the established safety procedures.
There were current violations at Colorado facilities involving accidents due to hazardous conditions.
- Failure to ensure the resident environment was as free from accident hazards as possible and provided supervision and assistive devices to prevent avoidable accidents involving residents who smoke. (Bear Creek Center)
- Failure to ensure residents are right to be free from neglect and abuse when a resident suffered a right femur fracture in a fall when a Nurse Aide was using a gait belt during a transfer. (Colonial health and rehabilitation Center)
Failure to Implement and Follow Infection Protection Protocols
Infection between patients can be dangerous. When nurses fail to wash their hands properly or don't wear gloves, they may spread germs from patient to patient.
Common violations involving noncompliance with infection protection protocols in nursing homes in Colorado include:
- Failure to maintain an infection prevention and control program to provide a safe, sanitary, and comfortable environment prevents the development and transmission of communicable diseases and infections. (The Garden of the Gods Care Center, Colorado Springs, CO)
Failure to Ensure Residents Receive Proper Treatment to Prevent Bedsores
Bed sores (also known as pressure sores, decubitus ulcers, or pressure wounds) are significant health issues for nursing home patients. They can be avoided by following established protocols.
If a bed sore develops, it needs the most intensive care to prevent further damage. Regulators have cited nursing homes for violating regulations regarding pressure ulcers.
- Failure to ensure one resident was free from neglect and provided care and services required to prevent avoidable pressure injuries from developing and worsening. (Bear Creek Center)
What Are the Signs of Negligence in Nursing Homes in Colorado?
One of the most important things families can do to protect their loved ones in nursing homes is to be aware of the indicators of nursing home negligence. By being aware of these indicators, families can be better prepared to take steps to protect their loved ones if they suspect that neglect is occurring.
Some of the most common indicators of caregiver negligence include:
- Facility-acquired pressure sores: Bed sores can form when a patient is not regularly repositioned, leading to skin breakdown. If your loved one has red, irritated skin around their buttocks, hips, or heels, it may be a sign that they're not being moved enough.
- Weight loss: significant weight loss can be a sign that a skilled nursing facility patient isn't given enough food or that they're unable to eat properly due to neglect.
- Poor hygiene: Rehabilitation center patients should be bathed and groomed regularly, but if your loved one is consistently dirty or has a foul body odor, it may be a sign of neglect.
- Over-medicated: If your loved one seems sedated or overly medicated, it could be a sign that they're not getting the proper care.
- Lack of basic needs: Patients in nursing homes should be provided with adequate food, water, clothing, health care, and shelter. If your loved one goes without these basic needs and services, it's likely due to neglect.
- Poor nutrition: Malnutrition is another common issue among skilled nursing facility patients. If your loved one isn't eating enough or isn't getting the right nutrients, it may be a sign of neglect.
- Infections: Nursing home patients are at risk for developing infections if they're not kept clean and germ-free. Watch out for signs of unusual infections such as oral thrush or diarrhea.
- Depression: Depression can signify that a skilled nursing care patient isn't receiving the mental stimulation they need. Look for changes in mood or behavior as an indication of possible neglect or abuse.
- Fearful: If your loved one is fearful of the staff at the rehabilitation center or seems to avoid interactions with them, it may be a sign that they're being abused or neglected.
- Physical injuries: Unexplained bruises, cuts, welts, or fractures could indicate that your loved one has been physically abused in the nursing health care and rehabilitation center.
- Emotional withdrawal occurs when the individual becomes emotionally distant from friends and family as part of their coping mechanism. The withdrawal is often due to situational stressors.
- Denial: Family members may experience denial when confronted with situations of abuse and neglect; this occurs when individuals refuse to believe what is happening before their eyes because of the shock and trauma associated with said events
- Anger is expressed by family members who feel frustrated because they are powerless to change the situation, often accompanied by feelings of helplessness.
Nursing Home Negligence Leading to Preventable Facility-Acquired Pressure Ulcers
Nursing home negligence can lead to serious, life-threatening pressure ulcers. These ulcers can develop when a person is not adequately turned and moved, which can cause the skin to break down and form an open sore. If left untreated, these sores can become infected and lead to sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition.
All hospital and long-term care registered nurses, licensed nurses, wound care specialists, and nurse aides must follow protocols to prevent avoidable bedsores. Common problems that require special attention include:
- Fragile Skin: Colorado long-term care residents have delicate skin due to age or illness, which makes them more susceptible to developing pressure ulcers. The slightest amount of pressure can cause damage to the skin and delay the healing process.
- Inadequate Nutrition: Nursing home residents are often not getting the adequate nutrition they need, which can lead to soft skin and delayed healing.
- Limited Mobility: Nursing home residents who are not mobile enough are at a higher risk for developing pressure ulcers, as they cannot move around and relieve the pressure on their skin.
- Incontinence: Incontinent patients are more likely to develop pressure ulcers, as they often do not have time to change their clothes or bedding regularly.
- Poor Hygiene: Unbathed and ungroomed long-term care patients are more likely to develop pressure ulcers, as bacteria can build up and cause infection.
- Bed Sores: Patients confined to bed often develop pressure sores, as they cannot move, and the constant pressure on their skin causes damage.
- Moisture: Nursing facility patients in contact with moisture for extended periods are at a higher risk of developing pressure ulcers, as the moisture can damage their skin.
- Smoking: Smokers are more likely to develop pressure ulcers, as smoking damages the blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the skin.
- Age: Older patients in skilled nursing facilities are more at risk for developing pressure ulcers, as their skin is less elastic and tends to heal more slowly.
- Illness: Patients suffering from an illness or infection are more likely to develop pressure ulcers, as their immune system is weakened and they cannot fight off infection effectively.
- Surgery: Rehabilitation center patients who recently underwent surgery are at a higher risk of developing pressure ulcers, as they may be bedridden for an extended period post-surgery.
- Medications: Some medications can cause side effects that lead to skin breakdown and delayed healing, putting patients in skilled nursing facilities at risk for developing pressure ulcers.
- Stress: Psychological stress can also delay healing and increase the likelihood of developing a pressure ulcer.
Common Cases of Abuse, Mistreatment, and Negligence at Nursing Homes in Colorado
One of the most tragic aspects of nursing home abuse is that it is often preventable. By paying close attention to the warning signs and taking appropriate action, families can help protect their loved ones from mistreatment and neglect.
Some common signs of nursing home abuse include:
- Verbal Abuse: Aggressive behavior in skilled nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities can involve yelling, cursing, and verbal threats, which can cause emotional trauma.
- Physical Abuse: This type of abuse in a long-term care center can involve slapping, punching, pushing, and other forms of physical violence that can lead to serious injury and even death.
- Sexual Abuse: This abuse is shockingly common and can involve unwanted touching, rape, and sexual exploitation.
- Emotional Abuse: This type includes humiliation, intimidation, and threats. It can be just as damaging as physical abuse.
- Financial Exploitation: Nursing home residents can be targeted for financial exploitation by nursing staff or family, visitors, employees, or other patients. This can include theft or misuse of funds or property.
- Neglect can refer to both medical and personal negligence. It can lead to serious health problems and even death.
- Social Isolation: Patients can be isolated by staff, family, or other residents who prevent them from interacting with others in nursing homes, long-term care centers, and skilled nursing facilities, leading to depression and withdrawal from the world.
- Poor Quality of Care: Facilities that are understaffed or poorly run are more likely to provide poor quality care to their residents. This can lead to malnutrition, dehydration, pressure sores, and other health problems.
- Dangerous Conditions: Skilled nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities can be dangerous due to slippery floors, inadequate safety rails, and faulty equipment. Residents can be seriously injured or killed as a result of these conditions.
- Unsanitary Conditions: Nursing homes, long-term care centers, and skilled nursing facilities that do not maintain a clean environment are at risk of providing unsanitary conditions for their residents. This can lead to serious infections and illnesses.
- Lack of Personal Care: Patients may not receive the personal care they need due to staff shortages or neglectful caregivers. This can result in neglected hygiene needs and an overall decline in health status.
- Inappropriate Use of Medication: Skilled nursing home residents may be given inappropriate or excessive doses of medication, which can lead to serious health complications.
- Wrongful Death: Tragically, nursing home abuse often leads to wrongful death. Staff negligence, intentional abuse, or medication errors can all result in fatalities.
- Undue Influence: Nursing home residents with dementia or Alzheimer's disease may be susceptible to undue influence by staff members who seek to control their finances or make decisions on their behalf
The Importance of Preventing the Spread of Infection in Nursing Homes
Nursing home residents are at high risk for contracting and spreading infection because many patients have weakened immune systems and are in close contact with other residents. Infection control is an essential part of nursing home care.
All staff members must follow Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) protocols to prevent the spread of infection. These protocols include proper hand hygiene, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and safe food handling.
Nursing home residents are susceptible to infection because of their age and health status. Infections can cause serious illness and even death. Nursing home staff must take appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of infection.
Problems that lead to the spread of infection include:
- Failing to provide necessary care: Nursing staff must give the necessary care to residents based on their needs. This includes providing timely and appropriate medical care and maintaining a clean and safe environment.
- Failing to follow safety protocols: Skilled nursing home staff are responsible for following safety protocols to prevent the spread of infection. This includes washing hands regularly, properly cleaning surfaces, and avoiding contact with contagious illnesses.
- Failing to isolate contagious residents: Nursing home staff are responsible for isolating contagious residents to prevent the spread of infection. This includes properly separating them from other residents and providing appropriate medical care.
- Allowing sick visitors into the facility: Visitors can bring germs into nursing homes and infect residents. The staff must carefully screen visitors for illness and keep those who are sick away from residents.
- Not providing appropriate medical care: Caregivers must provide residents with proper medical care based on their needs. This includes providing necessary treatments and medications and monitoring patients for changes in health.
- Not cleaning surfaces or equipment: Nursing home staff must adequately clean all surfaces and equipment to prevent the spread of infection. This includes disinfecting surfaces, sterilizing equipment, and washing hands regularly.
- Not sanitizing food: Elder caregivers and employees must sanitize all food to prevent infection. This includes washing fruits and vegetables, cooking meats properly, and using safe food handling practices.
- Not changing bed linens often enough: Bed linens can harbor bacteria and viruses that can cause infection. Skilled nursing staff must often change bed linens to prevent infection.
- Allowing rodents and insects into the facility: Rodents and insects can carry germs that can cause infection. To prevent infection, the long-term care staff must keep the facility free of rodents and insects.
- Not providing adequate staffing: Nursing homes need adequate staffing to provide necessary care to residents. When staffing is inadequate, nursing home staff may be unable to properly attend to resident needs, leading to neglect or abuse.
Why Accident Hazards Are So Dangerous to Nursing Home Patients
Nursing home patients are at a higher risk for accidents and injuries due to their age and general health condition. Patients who have dementia or Alzheimer's disease are especially at risk of wandering off or becoming lost in the facility.
In addition, patients may not be able to communicate when they are in pain or have other medical needs, which could lead to serious health complications if not addressed promptly.
Some accident hazards in nursing homes that lead to severe injury and death include
- Unsecured oxygen tanks: Many residents with respiratory issues receive oxygen through tanks wheeled into the room. If the tank is left unsecured, it can fall over, rupture, and cause catastrophic injuries.
- Poorly lit hallways and staircases: In the event of a fall, it is crucial that residents can see where they are going. The lack of adequate lighting can make navigating these areas treacherous.
- Inadequate staffing: Staffing levels are often insufficient in nursing homes, leading to fewer eyes on residents at all times. This increases the risk of neglect or abuse.
- Poorly maintained equipment: Malfunctioning medical equipment can lead to serious injury or death. Nursing homes must take steps to properly maintain all equipment.
- Untrained staff: Nurses and other staff members in nursing homes often do not have the proper training to deal with difficult situations. This can lead to mistakes that cause harm to residents.
- Lack of supervision: Staff members are too busy with other tasks to properly oversee residents. This can leave residents vulnerable to abuse or accidents.
- Medication errors: Incorrectly prescribed medications or dosages can be dangerous for elderly residents. Mistakes made by overworked nurses can have deadly consequences.
- Bed sores: Residents confined to their beds for long periods are at risk of developing bed sores. These painful wounds can often lead to infection and even death.
- Neglect: Sometimes, nurses and other staff members simply do not have enough time to care for all the residents under their charge. This can lead to neglect and a decline in health for affected residents.
- Restraints: Restraining elderly residents is often unnecessary and can lead to serious complications, such as blood clots and infections.
- Slip-and-fall accidents: Wet floors, poor lighting, and cluttered walkways can all lead to dangerous slip-and-fall accidents in nursing homes.
- Falls from bed: Elderly residents who are not properly restrained can easily fall out of bed if they lose their balance.
- Sexual abuse: Nursing home staff members sometimes take advantage of elderly residents who cannot defend themselves.
- Cognitive decline: As people age, their mental abilities often decline precipitously. This leaves them vulnerable to exploitation by those who should be caring for them
Nursing home staff members must be aware of the dangers in their facilities and take steps to minimize patient risks. Patients and their families should also be aware of these dangers and take steps to protect their loved ones from harm.
All Patient Elopement Cases Are Preventable
Nursing home patients should not be able to wander away from the premises without proper staff supervision. All patient elopement cases are preventable with the right safety precautions in place.
Nursing homes should have a system for tracking patients at all times. This system should include prominently placed signage indicating where patients can be found and tracking devices or wristbands for each patient.
Staff should also be aware of patients' movements and be properly trained to respond to an elopement situation.
- Lack of supervision: Some residents with special needs due to Alzheimer's, dementia, or other conditions require round-the-clock supervision to avoid elopement from the facility alone, leading to an increased risk for injury or death.
- Poorly secured doors and windows: Nursing home negligence often leads to poorly secured doors and windows, allowing residents to wander away from the premises without notice.
- Limited staffing: Nurses and aides are often overburdened with too many patients, leading to a lack of one-on-one observation time for each resident. This can allow residents with wandering tendencies to slip away unnoticed.
- Lack of communication: Inconsistent or lack of communication between nursing staff and other personnel can also lead to residents wandering away without notice. For example, if a nurse is not made aware that a resident has a history of elopement, they may not be as vigilant in monitoring that resident's movements.
- Inadequate safety policies: Nursing homes with ineffective safety policies or protocols are more likely to experience incidents of negligence that can lead to residents wandering away. These policies should include check-in procedures for all residents and tracking methods for those who wander off premises.
- Poorly trained staff: A lack of training for nurses and aides can lead to negligence and lapses in judgment that can endanger residents. Staff should be trained to identify risk factors for elopement and respond quickly and effectively.
- Lack of monitoring: In many cases, nursing home staff do not have enough time or resources to monitor all residents. This can lead to residents escaping without anyone noticing until it's too late.
- Poor visibility: Many nursing homes have poor visibility due to poorly lit areas and a lack of security cameras. This can make it difficult for staff members to see if a resident has wandered off the premises.
- Limited outdoor space: Nursing homes with inadequate outdoor space can limit opportunities for residents to take walks or explore their surroundings, leading them to wander off in search of new scenery.
- Forgotten passwords: Residents or their loved ones may forget their passwords to the electronic check-in system, preventing them from being monitored closely by staff. This can leave residents vulnerable, wandering off without anyone realizing it until it's too late.
- Lack of wandering prevention programs: A lack of Wandering Prevention Programs in nursing homes can lead to increased elopements. These programs should include strategies such as daily visual checks, identification bracelets, and secure areas where residents can walk safely.
- Limited orientation opportunities: Nursing home negligence can also limit orientation opportunities for new residents. This can leave them feeling lost and confused, which may cause them to wander off the premises.
- Inconsistent bed checks: Bed checks are another vital way to detect if a resident has wandered off the premises. However, if they are conducted inconsistently, it is easy for a resident to leave undetected.
- Poor visibility in hallways: Often, nursing home hallways are poorly lit, making it difficult for staff members to see if a resident is trying to leave.
If a nursing home fails to take the necessary precautions to prevent patient elopement, it may be held liable for any injuries or damages that occur as a result. If you or a loved one has been injured due to nursing home negligence, contact an experienced attorney today.