Today, the United States has the greatest number of citizens aged 65 and older — that’s 40.3 million elderly Americans. By 2050, that number will jump to an astounding 88.5 million, with Colorado leading the way as one state with the fastest growing aging population. In fact, within the next six years Colorado is expected to see a 54 percent increase in its senior population, or 1.3 million Coloradans 65 or older. And by 2032, that number will surge by a whopping 142 percent for those over 70.
With this explosive growth in an aging population comes an unfortunate increase in elder abuse cases. According to AARP, some 2.1 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation each year. Authorities in Denver believe this figure may actually be 5 times higher since many cases of elder abuse go unreported due to the victim’s embarrassment or fear of retaliation at the hands of their abuser. While most people believe elder abuse occurs primarily in nursing homes, most incidents actually take place at home because nearly 96 percent of older Americans live at home or with family members, and not in institutional settings. And when abuse occurs, it’s usually at the hands of a spouse, family member, or professional caregiver. According to a recent government study, nearly 14 percent of non-institutionalized older Americans experience some form of elder abuse each year.
Elder abuse takes many forms: physical, sexual or psychological maltreatment, neglect or financial abuse. This includes failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder’s basic needs or to protect the elder from harm. When taking the form of intentional or unintentional neglect, such abuse can range from failing to provide food, water, and medications to withholding necessary assistance with daily living activities, or even a failure to pay bills. Signs of abuse include unexplained injuries, uncharacteristic changes in behavior, and a lack of interest in social contacts.
In Colorado, more than 3,800 reports of suspected elder abuse have been documented since a new state law went into effect last summer that requires a wide range of professionals — including nurses, chiropractors, law enforcement officers, dentists, nursing home staff and home health care workers — to report any suspected abuse or exploitationof residents 70 and older.
“It’s the law that we”ve been trying to get in Colorado for some time,” says Mitchell Morrissey, Denver’s District Attorney. “What doctors were seeing sometimes is bruising [and] care providers [were] saying oh, she’s clumsy. She falls down all the time,’ those kinds of things.” Like many others, Morrissey wants to put an end to these abuses and punish those who hurt the elderly.
If you suspect that you or someone you love is the victim of elder abuse or neglect, immediately contact a dedicated Denver elder abuse lawyer to discuss your situation and help you get the justice you deserve.