* This blog was originally published in February 2015. June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day we are republishing this post to highlight the importance of protecting our seniors from negligence and abuse. Colorado recently put into place new laws to help protect our state’s aging population. The tragedy of elder abuse is on the rise in the United States as the American population continues to age. Baby Boomers are turning 65 at a rate of one every ten seconds. In order to protect this population, Colorado, as of July 2014, put into place mandatory reporting laws. These laws ensure that those in the elder community are safe and cared for by requiring certain identified individuals to report any observations or reasonable suspicions of abuse of an at-risk elder to the proper authorities within 24 hours. Elder abuse can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, caretaker neglect, and exploitation of a person 70 years of age or older.
Who are Mandatory Reporters in Colorado?
Currently, this law requires several types of professionals and caretakers to report elder abuse. The required individuals include doctors, nurses, chiropractors, psychologists, other mental health professionals, social workers, clergy members, dentists, law enforcement personnel, court-appointed guardians or conservators, firefighters, pharmacists, bank personnel, and caretakers at a certified care facility. This law allows for those individuals who report abuse or exploitation immunity from any related civil or criminal action as long as the report is made in good faith. The Colorado House of Representatives, in early February 2015, voted to refer House Bill 15-1018 to the Committee on Public Health Care and Human Services to amend the current law to include additional mandatory reporters. These include victim advocates either employed or volunteering with any law enforcement agencies and employees or independent contractors of a bus company who pick up an elderly person from the person’s home or other specified location. The Bill also defines mental health professionals to include licensed social workers, marriage and family therapists, licensed professional counselors, registered psychotherapists, and licensed addiction counselors.
Signs of Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation
As a law firm representing victims of nursing home abuse, we have seen first-hand that abuse and neglect can come in many forms, and may not necessarily be visible on the person. Signs of abuse, neglect, or exploitation include:
- Broken bones
- Significant weight loss, malnutrition, or dehydration
- Repeated visits to the emergency room
- Unsanitary or unsafe living conditions
- Lack of medical aids
- Inconsistencies in financial habits
- Missing personal belongings
- A difference between lifestyle and personal resources
What Can You Do?
Even if you are not a mandatory reporter, we recommend that you still report any signs of elder abuse. You can contact your local Adult Protective Services (APS) to make a report. Please provide as much information as possible about the at-risk adult and the alleged abuser including:
- The at-risk adult’s name, age, address, and phone number;
- The adult’s medical and/or other conditions;
- The name and contact information of the adult’s caretaker, if any;
- Any specific concerns about the alleged mistreatment, including the nature and extent of the adult’s injury, if any; and
- The alleged abuser’s name, address, and relationship to the at-risk adult.
The phone number for El Paso County APS is 719-444-5755 and the Denver APS hotline is 720-944-2994. Elder abuse can occur in the elder’s own home, outside the home, or at nursing home. If you have put your loved one and your trust in a nursing home, and you suspect abuse or neglect, please call the experienced attorneys at McDivitt Law Firm. Our team will work to ensure that the nursing home is held accountable for its neglect or abuse, and that your loved one is compensated for injuries or illness.