New CO Law Sheds Light on Elder Neglect and Abuse

More than 3,000 suspected cases of suspected elder abuse have been reported under a new Colorado law that increases elder abuse reporting requirements. 

Neglect or abuse is a top concern for many Greenwood Village residents who have decided to place a loved one in a nursing home or assisted-living facility. Nursing home neglect or abuse can have lasting physical and emotional consequences, and in extreme cases, it can even endanger a victim’s life. Fortunately, this year Colorado started observing a law that requires more professionals to report potential cases of abuse. The law has also helped shine light on how often elder abuse may really occur.

New reporting requirements

According to Colorado Public Radio, since July 1, various professionals, including those in the medical and financial industries, have been legally required to report when they suspect abuse of an elderly person who is at least 70 years old. From the start of July to the end of October, 3,200 cases were reported.

Self-neglect appeared to play a role in about half of those cases, but the remaining 1,600 were investigated. Slightly more than half of the investigated reports involved suspected incidences of abuse or neglect on the part of a caretaker. In 6 percent of cases, or more than 1 in 20 cases, outright physical or sexual abuse was suspected.

Even with the new reporting requirements, the number of cases reported may not reflect the true scale of elder abuse. Many sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, define elder abuse as abuse of people over age 60, so Colorado’s law may overlook some of the elderly population that is vulnerable to abuse. Still, by increasing reporting and allocating more money to hire caseworkers who can help elderly individuals, this law could reduce incidences of elder abuse.

Understanding elder abuse

Elder abuse can take many forms, some of which are not easily detected. The Administration on Aging reports that the following behaviors all constitute elder abuse:

  • Physical or sexual abuse – any pain, injury or unwanted sexual contact constitutes abuse; for example, the use of restraints may represent physical abuse.
  • Desertion or neglect – abandoning or otherwise failing to properly care for an elderly person also represents abuse.
  • Financial exploitation – hiding, stealing or misusing an older person’s assets also is a form of elder abuse.

Harm that occurs due to caretaker inattention or poor safety procedures – for instance, an injury that occurs when a nursing resident falls on a slippery surface or wanders away from caretakers – may also be considered abuse or neglect.

There can be many warning signs of elder abuse. Family members who have placed a loved one in a nursing home or assisted-living facility should stay alert to bruises, injuries, bedsores, weight loss or poor hygiene. Family members should also pay attention to emotional changes. Victims of abuse may become depressed and withdrawn, or they may argue and act out against their caretakers.

Protecting loved ones

People who suspect elder abuse in Colorado can call the state’s Adult Protective Services agency or, if the abuse is life-threatening, the local police. If the abuse is confirmed, family members may want to meet with a personal injury attorney after the loved one is removed from the facility and given medical attention.

Under state law, a victim of elder abuse may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, future medical expenses and emotional suffering. An attorney can provide advice on determining whether an incident constituted negligence or abuse and, if so, seeking an appropriate amount of compensation.

Keywords: elder, nursing home, abuse, injury

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