It’s a hard decision to put a loved one in a nursing home. The family can’t be there 24/7 and relies on marketing materials and sales pitches by the facility owners and staff. Cases like this one will undoubtedly be unsettling to many with relatives in such facilities. John Gordy, rendered parapalegic after a bicycle accident in 2002 , chose the Red Rocks Health Care Center in Denver as a care facility, based on its marketing materials and promises of skilled care. He didn’t get the care he was promised.

Gordy claimed that during his three-year stay at Red Rocks, he was subjected to repeated acts of degradation, including being left in waste for hours, and was deprived of needed help with activities of daily living. He also claimed he was subjected to retaliation for complaining about his care and that staff ignored his emergency call light for long periods. ….During his stay at the nursing home, Gordy developed severe bed sores, was dropped on his neck and was burned on his chest, Reinan said.

This wasn’t the nursing home’s only brush with malfeasance.

In July 2001, state inspectors visited Red Rocks and found so many problems – the facility got 21 citations for deficiencies – that state officials temporarily withheld Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements for new patients.

A jury this week decided for Gordy, to the tune of $3.2 million. So, what can you do to avoid a poorly managed or staffed nursing home, or worse, one which mistreats residents? Contact the Colorado Ombudsman’s Program and inquire about the record of the facility you’re interested in.

The Colorado Long-Term Care Ombudsman is a statewide advocacy program for residents of long-term care facilities. The State Ombudsman office is located at The Legal Center and operates through a contract with the Aging and Adult Services Division of The Department of Human Services. There are 16 local programs that operate within or in conjunction with the Regional Area Agency on Aging. The program is authorized by state and federal law to investigate complaints made by (and on behalf of) residents of long-term care facilities. During the fiscal year 2005, The Colorado Long-Term Care Ombudsman handled 9,757 complaints. Approximately 70% of the complaints were resolved or partially resolved to the satisfaction of the resident or complainant. Ombudsmen handle and resolve complaints at the lowest possible level, thus reducing the need for agency action or litigation.

Go here to find an ombudsman near you