Hundreds of service professionals attended the Speak Up It’s the Law Conference to learn about Colorado’s new mandatory elder abuse reporting law, which goes into effect July 1, 2014.
“Essentially, this law legally requires many service professionals to report suspected elder abuse to their local police department within 24 hours,” Penny May, Denver Human Services Executive Director said.
Elder abuse includes anyone age 70 years or older that may be being physically abused, unreasonably confined or restrained, sexually abused, neglected by a caretaker or financially exploited.
“Reporting suspected abuse can lead victims to safety – physical safety, financial safety, emotional safety – and link them with professionals and services that can ultimately prove to be life-saving,” said Linda Loflin Pettit, Victim and Community Outreach Program Manager for the Denver City Attorney’s Office.
Signs of elder abuse may include, but are not limited to, bruising, black eyes, burns, fractures, unwanted sexual contact, isolation or lack of basic care. Financial exploitation includes Illegal or improper use of an older adult's funds, property or assets.
Eighty percent of elder abuse occurs from someone the victim knows such as a family member, care giver, advisor or friend, according to the Denver District Attorney’s Office. Still, there are many cases where a stranger is taking advantage of an elder.
Mandated reporters who suspect someone is being abused must call local police to report it. The reporter must share the elder’s contact information, their contact information, what was observed, name of alleged perpetrator and nature of suspected abuse.
“I hope this law empowers you to help your elderly clients,” Ralph Stephenson from the Denver District Attorney’s Office Economic Crime Unit said. “Because of calls from people like you, we can help stop crimes against the elderly.”
“Whether you are a mandated reporter or not, I urge you to report suspicious behavior to authorities,” May said. “Let trained professionals make the determination about how best to protect the individual. Speak up and help us protect our elders from abuse and neglect.”
In 2013, there were 7,293 allegations of mistreatment against at-risk adults in Colorado. The number of reports made is expected to increase once this law goes into effect, according to the Colorado Department of Human Services.
For additional information about elder abuse and the mandatory elder abuse reporting law, visit www.denvergov.org/speakup.