In Colorado, more than 4,000 incidents of adult abuse, exploitation or neglect are reported each year to local county departments of social services and long-term care ombudsmen. Many more go unreported. The victims are at-risk adults age 18 or over who due to age or disability are unable to protect themselves and have no one to protect them. Over 70% are over 60 and are physically impaired or have some form of dementia. The younger victims are persons with physical or developmental disabilities. For many, the abuse, exploitation or neglect is caused by a caregiver or a member of their own family. Often the victim is totally dependent upon the abuser, and is afraid to complain for fear of reprisal.
Signs that may indicate abuse, exploitation or neglect are occurring according to the Colorado Coalition for Elder Rights and Adult Protection:
- Frequent injuries such as bruises, burns, broken bones, especially when the explanation for the cause of the injury does not seem plausible
- Over medication/sedation
- Multiple bruises in various stages of healing, particularly bruises on inner arms or thighs
- Victim appears frightened or withdrawn
- Victim has been locked in a room or tied up
- Sudden dramatic change in victim’s behavior: appears withdrawn, depressed
- Caretaker won’t let victim speak for him/herself
- Caretaker scolds, insults and/or threatens victims
- Evidence of sexually transmitted disease
- Irritation or injuries to mouth, genitals or anus
- Victim acts upset when changed or bathed
- Victim appears fearful when with a particular person
- Filthy living environment
- Lack of medical attention
- Lack of dentures, hearing aids, glasses
- Malnutrition, dehydration
- Clothing is inadequate for the climate
- Poor hygiene
- Unusual activity in bank account; sudden large withdrawals; expenditures that are not consistent with victim’s past financial history
- Use of Automated Teller Machines by person with no history of using ATMs or who cannot access one due to a disability
- Signing over rights on legal papers without understanding what the papers mean
- Eviction for nonpayment of rent; house in foreclosure; utilities shut off, lack of food, clothing or personal supplies
- Title to home signed over in exchange for promise of “life-long care”
Reporting Elder Abuse in Colorado
As of July 1, 2014, Colorado law mandates reporting of suspected elder abuse to the appropriate police department or the county sheriff by calling 911, if the individual is over 70 years of age (or over 18 and disabled). This report must be made “within 24 hours after making the observation or discovery.”
A person who reports an incident of abuse or exploitation to a law enforcement agency is immune from a civil action or criminal prosecution if the report is made in good faith, however a person who knowingly makes a false report can be charged with a class 3 misdemeanor.
If the suspected victim of elder abuse is under the age or 70 or is not disabled, a report must be made to law enforcement, either the police or the county sheriff. Reports can be made by calling 911 or the non-emergency number, depending on the seriousness of the offense.
- Any person providing health care or health-care related services including: general medical, surgical, nursing services, nursing specialty services, dental, vision, pharmacy, chiropractic services, physical, occupation, musical, or other therapies.
- Staff of hospital and long term care facilities engaged in admission, care, or treatment of patients.
- First responders, including: emergency medical providers, fire protection personnel, law enforcement officers, any person employed, contracted, or volunteers of any law enforcement agency, including victim advocates.
- Medical examiners and coroners
- Code enforcement officers
- Psychologists, addictions counselors, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and registered psychotherapists (Title 12, Article 43, C.R.S)
- Social workers (Title 12, Article 43, C.R.S)
- Staff of Community Centered Boards
- Staff, consultants, or independent contractors of service agencies for persons with IDD (Section 25-27.5-102 (5), C.R.S. and Section 25.5-10-202(34), C.R.S)
- Staff or consultants of a care facility, agency, home, or governing board (licensed or unlicensed, certified or uncertified) including long-term care facilities, home care agencies, or home health providers
- Home health staff
- Caretakers, staff members, employees, or consultants for a home care placement agency (Section 25-27.5-102(5), C.R.S.)
- Persons performing case management or assistant services for at-risk adults
- Staff of County Departments of Human Social Services
- Staff of Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS)
- Staff of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)
- Staff of Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF)
- Staff of senior centers or senior outreach and research organizations
- Staff and staff of contracted providers of Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) (except the long-term care ombudsman)
- Employees, consultants, or volunteers that provide transportation services for at-risk adults
- Court appointed guardians and conservators
- School personnel at schools serving persons in preschool through 12th grade
- Clergy (pursuant to Section 13-90-107(1)(C), C.R.S.)
- Personnel of banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions, and other lending or financial institutions
- Episode 1 Elder Abuse – Senior Answers Podcast – Financial Exploitation
- Episode 2 Elder Abuse – Senior Answers Podcast – Sexual Abuse, Physical Abuse, and Domestic Violence
- Episode 3 Elder Abuse – Senior Answers Podcast – Neglect
Online training for Mandatory Reporters
ResourcesThe federal Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative has resources for victims, advocates, prosecutors, and practitioners on how to address elder abuse. For professionals, the Colorado Coalition for Elder Rights and Abuse Prevention offers several online trainings and regular events focusing on elder abuse issues, many of which qualify for continuing education credits.