Between 2010 and 2021, the Rocky Mountain state of Colorado saw its population rise over 15%. Colorado’s 65+ age group is its fastest growing demographic. Between 2010 and 2021, this population segment increased 58.7%. With a rising elderly demographic, nursing home abuse in Colorado must be monitored and prosecuted.
In fact, three employees of an assisted living facility here were charged in the death of an Alzheimer’s patient. Two received short jail sentences. The 86-year-old who died was left unattended in the summer heat.
If your loved one suffered abuse or neglect in a Colorado nursing home, it’s time to speak with a nursing home neglect attorney. Your loved one deserves a settlement payment for their suffering. If you live in or near Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins or Aurora, it is time to take action.
Colorado Nursing Home Resident Rights
- The care necessary to meet individual physical, social, and rehab needs
- Assistance to achieve and maintain their highest possible level of independence
- Assistance to achieve self-care, and self-worth and well-being
- A safe, supportive, homelike environment
- Freedom to choose their surroundings, schedules, health care and activities
- The opportunity to be involved with their community, both in and out of the nursing home
- Dignity and respect
What is Nursing Home Abuse in Colorado?
Title 18 of Colorado’s Criminal Code defines abuse as:
“(a) The nonaccidental infliction of bodily injury, serious bodily injury, or death;
(b) Confinement or restraint that is unreasonable under generally accepted caretaking standards; or
(c) Subjection to sexual conduct or contact classified as a crime under this title.”
Nursing home abuse generally falls under the following categories, each ranging in severity depending on your case. Make sure to consult with a nursing home abuse attorney to find out which type of abuse applies to your case. This will let you know what type of damage to sue for against the guilty party.
When a nursing home resident suffers from intentional bodily harm from a caretaker, they are suffering from nursing home physical abuse. Examples of physical abuse include:
- Skin bruising
- Bone fractures
- Soft tissue swelling
Not every form of nursing home abuse is as direct as physical abuse. Nursing home emotional abuse is any behavior or talk intended to upset or confuse nursing home residents. Some examples of nursing home emotional abuse include:
- Verbal harassment
- Isolation from other residents
- Psychological manipulation
- Repeated threats of harm
Financial exploitation is a subtle but devastating form of nursing home abuse that focuses on stealing or manipulating funds from nursing home residents. Examples of nursing home financial abuse include:
- Financial transfers
- Transferring ownership of wills
- Changing banking information like debit or credit cards
- Control of a patient’s accounts
Nursing Home Neglect
When a nursing home withholds basic care and human interaction to residents, that can be considered nursing home neglect. Common examples of nursing home neglect include:
- Letting residents remain in bed for too long, causing bed sores
- Failing to provide walkers and wheelchairs when needed
- Forgetting to give medication to residents
- Leaving patients alone for too long
- Confinement or restraint that is unreasonable under generally accepted caretaking standards
This type of abuse refers to subjection to sexual conduct or contact classified as a crime under the “Colorado Criminal Code,” title 18, C.R.S. It may feel unthinkable that your loved one may suffer from sexual abuse, but cases have happened where their medical conditions raise the chances of them to be taken advantage of.
Examples of sexual abuse include:
- Unwanted sexual touching or verbiage
- Taking or distributing sexual photos without consent
- Manipulation to perform sexual acts
- Forced nudity
- Oral or anal rape
Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Being aware of the red flags of abuse is the best way to take care of your loved one.
When suspecting physical nursing home abuse, look for:
- Unexplained loss of mobility
- Repeated ER visits
- Unexplained injuries
Emotional abuse is subtle and leaves no direct physical injuries, but there are signs this type of behavior is happening:
- Emotional withdrawal
- Less eye contact than normal when loved ones visit
- Being unwilling to speak freely or answer questions
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Emotional distress when left alone
Financial abuse is just as subtle, but requires great care when initiating the conversation with your loved one. Spotting the warning signs is crucial to stopping further extortion and theft before it’s too late. Make sure your loved one isn’t experiencing the following signs of financial exploitation:
- A lack of access to the resident’s finances
- Unexplained transfer of assets or money to another person
- Unexpected changes to a resident’s banking info
- Abrupt changes to their will or other financial assets
- Recent reluctance to talk about financial matters
- Sudden loss of personal belongings
- Balance statements with transfers to another caregiver
Common Causes of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse is sadly common due to ongoing staffing issues in the nursing home industry. Abuse and neglect can be caused by a facility’s administration failing to train or supervise staff. Underpaying and overscheduling staff members can also lead to neglect.
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse in Colorado
First, report nursing home abuse to Colorado state officials by filing a complaint. They will investigate all claims of elder abuse. For help, contact the Colorado Nursing Home Administrators Board or your local Adult Protective Services office.
For all facilities, officials investigate concerns about:
- Quality of care
- Patient/resident rights
- Building and equipment safety
The state of Colorado accepts anonymous complaints. If you file a complaint, investigators don’t share your name with the nursing home unless you instruct them to do so. Colorado reviews complaints and prioritizes them based on actual or potential harm to patients or residents.
IMPORTANT: State officials can only investigate concerns that are within a year of when the incident occurred. Anyone with knowledge or concerns about a health care entity can file a complaint. This can include family members, concerned citizens and health care professionals.
If the state can’t verify an allegation, that doesn’t confirm a reported incident didn’t occur. If the state finds the health care entity isn’t in compliance with statute or regulations, officials will cite deficient practice. The health care entity must correct the violation.
According to Colorado statutes, nursing home facilities are required to give residents council and grievance procedures.
This includes the name, address, and phone number of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and the phone number and address of the Departments of Health and Social Services and the Colorado Foundation for Medical Care.
Types of Damages in a Nursing Home Abuse Claim
There are three types of damages you can file for in a nursing home abuse claim:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
- Punitive damages
Economic and non-economic damages are filed under compensatory damages, compensation for harm, injury, or expenses incurred by the liable defendant(s).
- Economic damages: Measurable expenses suffered due to abuse or neglect. These expenses may include:
- Medical care
- Relocation costs
- Physical therapy
- Mental health treatment
Economic damages can also include burial costs, which have no caps in Colorado.
- Non-economic damages are the non-measurable expenses from abuse. Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
These types of damages are capped in Colorado. The state law limits damages for pain and suffering to $250,000 (plus inflation). If the court warrants that non-economic damages exceed this amount, they will provide the adequate amount, not exceeding $1,284,370.
Punitive damages are designed to punish fraud, malice, or wanton conduct. In Colorado, punitive damages are limited under what they call the “one for one” rule.
IMPORTANT: Punitive damages in Colorado cannot exceed the actual damages a jury awards.
Colorado Statute of Limitations for Nursing Home Claims
The statute of limitations in Colorado for an abuse claim against a nursing home is two years.
If your loved one experienced abuse in a nursing home, file your case as soon as possible. This ensures evidence won’t be lost or forgotten. Fresh evidence will help your lawyer formulate a convincing case to the court, jury, or insurance adjusters.
Find a Colorado Nursing Home Lawyer with LegalASAP
Nursing home abuse attorneys typically work under contingency fees. This means your family won’t have to pay them until your loved one’s settlement arrives. A lawyer can guide you through the legal process and secure your family a much higher settlement than if you represent yourself.
Not sure how to locate an attorney to represent your Colorado nursing home abuse case? LegalASAP’s attorney network of 500+ law firms can connect you with an experienced legal advocate in Colorado.
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.