Amy Fischer received devastating news in 2014. Her grandmother, Charlotte Lucille Fischer, was in grave condition after suffering a hip fracture.
The circumstances of the elder Fischer’s injury were no accident, according to prosecutors and the Montrose County coroner, the latter of whom ruled Fischer’s Aug. 22, 2014, death a homicide (death caused by another).
Late last month, District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller charged Travis R. Young with third-degree assault on an at-risk adult, a class-6 felony. The DA issued a summons to Young, the certified nursing assistant who was allegedly working with Fischer when she was injured at Colorow Care Center in Olathe.
A phone number could not be located for Young. No attorney was listed in his case file.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s 2014 report on Fischer’s injuries indicate Young said the elderly woman was combative and took a swing at him, injuring herself in the process. The state, however, concluded Colorow had not properly investigated or reported the incident.
“A lot of things happened that shouldn’t happen to anyone’s grandmother,” Amy Fischer said Feb. 24.
Charlotte Fischer suffered from severe dementia and was cognitively impaired. She could also be combative, the CDPHE incident report noted, but another Colorow staff member reported the frail nonagenarian was incapable of inflicting injury onto others and her granddaughter’s timeline document describes Fischer as having been gentle and well-liked.
Her care plan called for a two-person assist when she was being moved.
Per the state report, on Aug. 15, 2014, Young went in by himself to assist her into bed; Fischer was reportedly agitated. Young reported she tried to hit him so he ducked, then placed her in bed “in a safe position,” according to the document.
A nurse immediately noticed a bruise to Charlotte’s forehead and the elderly woman also complained of pain to her left leg. But she often “voiced distress when touched,” so the nurses didn’t think there was an injury that would require further action, per the report.
Subsequently, staff noticed skin tears to her left arm and that her leg was oddly positioned. The next morning, hospice was notified and an X-ray was requested, according to information in the CDPHE report. That evening, the X-ray was performed, revealing a fracture to Fischer left femoral neck; she was sent to the emergency room in Delta. She had additionally sustained a hematoma.
Amy Fischer said she was not immediately informed of her grandmother’s injuries.
A facility worker told the CDPHE that, prior to Charlotte Fischer going to ER, the woman was yelling in pain and at one point shouted that she wanted her leg cut off.
Amy Fischer said her grandmother suffered a “huge hematoma,” shattered femur and elbow injury.
“There was blood on the wall when I got there. What was as sad as anything is Colorow didn’t tell me for two days this had happened,” Amy Fischer said. “She screamed and cried ‘please cut off my leg.’”
Her grandmother also was improperly medicated for the pain she was suffering, Fischer contended.
Vivage Senior Living, the parent company of Colorow, cannot comment on pending matters, said Nancy Schwalm, chief business development officer.
“While there is an ongoing proceeding, we cannot comment about the action. At this point, we don’t have anything to say about the matter other than we’ll continue to fully cooperate with authorities,” Schwalm said Tuesday.
According to the CDPHE’s 2014 report, the care center’s administration concluded Young did not knowingly injure Charlotte Fischer and said the injury, while unfortunate, was “much to her own devices.” Because of the finding that there was no intent to injure, administration did not view the matter as reportable to the state. Admin also concluded the facility had conducted a thorough investigation.
The state eventually found otherwise, however, deciding the facility failed to report potential abuse; failed to fully investigate the circumstances of Fischer’s injuries and failed to conduct comprehensive review of residents, staff, family and hospice staff.
“There was insufficient evidence in the facility’s investigation to show how the resident could sustain such significant and varied injuries given her physical state and the abilities of the CNA, given his physical state, to protect her from self-harm,” the report states.
The document notes Fischer stood about 5 feet tall and weighed approximately 90 pounds, while Young was 6 feet and weighed approximately 250 pounds.
Additionally, an Adult Protective Services caseworker “discussed that the injuries sound extreme for the story that (Colorow) has reported,” the CDPHE report states.
The document also notes others questioned the explanations given.
“It seemed suspicious to me that my 90-pound grandma had been hurt that badly,” Amy Fischer said.
The state also found Colorow did not completely investigate prior allegations of abuse or mistreatment reportedly involving the same CNA. The report contains allegations two other patients were handled roughly and, again, care center administration found there hadn’t been an intent to cause injury.
The facility was issued a plan for correction.
Charlotte Fischer died Aug. 22, 2014, at a hospice care facility to which she had been transferred. It was just one day after her 91st birthday.
He autopsy listed the cause of death as an acute displaced fracture of the left femoral neck and noted in the medical findings “possible history of abuse.” The report also found a large bruise to the forehead associated with hematoma and abrasions to her left elbow and knee.
The autopsy initially listed manner of death as undetermined because the possibility of abuse was under investigation.
But Dr. Thomas Canfield, Montrose County coroner, said after the autopsy report was issued, he made the finding of homicide, as listed on Fischer’s death certificate that was released Nov. 25, 2014.
“That, in my opinion, is a homicide and I so certified it,” Canfield said.
Fischer’s death certificate lists as primary cause of death the hip fracture due to or as consequence of “injured by another being placed in bed.”
Hotsenpiller is limited in what he can say because the case against Young is pending. The charge is assault, in part because of the proof burden associated with more severe charges would require a showing of intent to cause Fischer’s death, he indicated.
He forthrightly acknowledged: “This case took too long for our office to investigate and make a filing decision. There were certainly some investigatory challenges for us, but even with our stretched resources, I am working to continue to push our attorneys and staff to get these cases filed in a more timely manner.”
The slender resources and constantly shifting priorities are challenges, he said.
“Nonetheless, this kind of delay is very difficult for victims and the family members of the victims, and as well can negatively impact defendants, witnesses and law enforcement officers,” Hotsenpiller said.
The charge against Young is classed as an extraordinary risk crime that gives a presumptive sentence of up to two years in prison for those convicted of it, and up to four if extraordinary aggravating circumstances are found. People convicted of this offense may also be eligible for probation, however.
Young is to appear in court Thursday.
“This is not just ‘somebody.’ This is one of my somebodies,” Amy Fischer said, calling the circumstances of her grandmother’s death “sickening.”
What Young allegedly did, and the way the facility handled it, particularly with regard to pain medication for her grandmother, “weighs on my mind every day,” Fischer added.