Elder abuse and mistreatment of any at-risk adults over the age of 70 is becoming a national epidemic affecting families, at-home caregivers, the medical community, and nursing homes. There are many situations where those who are no longer able to care for themselves or protect themselves are subject to neglect and/or abuse – physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally.
How Is Elder Abuse Defined in Colorado?
Colorado has no specific crime designated as “elder abuse.” However, the state will prosecute perpetrators according to Colorado 18-6.5-103, C.R.S. crimes against the elderly, which covers the underlying crimes or violence which may include assault, robbery, caretaker neglect, theft, sexual assault, exploitation, or criminal negligence.
Elders are at a disadvantage against bullying or abuse due to their frail condition. Often, medical issues such as hearing loss, muscle weakness, or poor sight makes them more vulnerable to those that would take advantage of these physical or mental ailments. When seeking legal action against a facility or person for elder abuse, it is important to speak with attorneys familiar with nursing home abuse and crimes against the elderly.
If the neglect or mistreatment is happening within an older person’s home, it can be a hired caregiver or a family caretaker that has lost their patience, stamina, or energy to maintain the duties that some elderly persons demand. Depending on the nature of medical or mental deficiencies, taking care of an elderly patient at home can be burdensome for some individuals. If you have noticed a family member or hired caretaker is neglecting an elderly person, the same procedure should be followed as if the person were in a nursing facility.
Caretaker neglect can occur when reasonable conditions of care are not met – these include the lack of or inadequate amounts of food, shelter, clothing, physical, or psychological care. To judge if caretaker neglect is occurring, consider if the amount of care given to the elder is consistent with what a reasonable person would expect in the same situation.
The Signs of Elder Abuse
Unfortunately, due to declining cognitive skills, senior adults may not recognize mistreatment as abuse or may not be aware that financial crimes or psychological exploitation is occurring. It is often family members or a trusted caretaker that will detect the signs of harm or distress that is typical with elder abuse which may include:
- Unexplained or repeated bruises, sprains, broken bones, burns, or cuts
- Bloody underwear, bruising or bleeding from vagina or rear end
- Sudden withdrawal, depression, confusion or loss of interest
- Unexplained financial transactions, unpaid bills, or missing financial records
- Bed sores, missing or broken teeth, weight loss, unhygienic conditions
Elder Abuse Penalties in Colorado
Colorado treats elder abuse as a serious crime and the consequences are generally more severe than crimes committed against younger adults. Crimes against an at-risk elder are usually prosecuted as felony charges and the penalties will vary depending on the crime.
- First-degree Assault and Sex Crimes: May result in up to 24 years in prison and/or fines of $5,000-$1,000,000.
- Theft: The penalty for theft depends on the value of the item, whether the elder was present during the theft and whether force was used. Penalties include prison time, ranging from 1-12 years, and a fine up to $750,000.
- Caretaker Neglect: Considered a class 1 misdemeanor and may result in prison time up to 18 months and/or a fine between $500-$5,000.
- Exploitation: Depending on the value of the property, the perpetrator may receive up to 12 years in prison and a fine up to $750,000.
- Robbery: Considered a particularly serious crime, the perpetrator may receive up to 12 years in prison and a fine up to $500,000.
How to Report Elder Abuse
In the state of Colorado, if you suspect someone is suffering from self-neglect or abuse by another, you can make a good faith report by calling Adult Protective Services (APS) by county. An investigation will be initiated concerning the reported nature of abuse and the alleged perpetrators.
When reporting elder abuse, you will need the victim’s identifying information along with the circumstances surrounding the abuse in order to start the investigation. If possible, you should also have the name and address of the perpetrators and the extent of any injuries or harm the elder may be suffering. In some cases, if the elder is found to be in direct danger, a call to the local police department may be necessary.
If a nursing home or medical professional is involved in the abuse of an elder, you may want to contact a law office that represents seniors in defending their rights to proper medical treatment in a safe and nurturing environment. Taking legal action to bring attention to elder abuse will put the spotlight on institutions that turn a blind eye to home health aides or in-house staff members that are taking advantage of the elderly or have lost their patience in dealing with the needs of at-risk adults.
If you suspect elder abuse, contact Reinan Law for a personal consultation regarding wrongful death, abuse, or neglect of an elderly person.
Reinan Law represents residents and families that have been subjected to neglect and abuse by long-term care providers. We recommend that family members do their due diligence in not only seeking out a well-equipped living situation but to follow up on a regular basis to ensure your loved is receiving proper care. If you question the care your family member is receiving, feel free to give us a call at (303) 894-0383. Find out more information about our services on our areas of practice page.