According to the Colorado Health Institute1, more than 11,000 claims of elder abuse are filed each year in the State of Colorado. Nearly half of long-term care residents report being abused, and 95% of residents report knowing of abuse that occurred to someone else. In other words, elder abuse is an epidemic in Colorado.
When you understand what elder abuse is, you can take steps to recognize it and fight back. Our Colorado attorneys for elder abuse explain what you need to know.
What Is Considered Elder Abuse in Colorado?
Colorado criminal law 18-6.5-1022 defines what is considered elder abuse in Colorado as any of the following committed against an at-risk person:
- Inflicting bodily injury, serious injury or death (not accidental)
- Unreasonable confinement or restraint
- Criminal sexual conduct
- Caretaker neglect
- Criminal exploitation
- Criminal negligence
An at-risk person is someone aged 70 or older or someone with a disability.
In addition to these offenses, several crimes carry a more serious penalty if they are committed against a vulnerable adult, including assault and battery, robbery and theft. Many of these offenses are listed in Colorado law 18-6.5-1033.
What Is Caretaker Neglect in Colorado?
Caretaker neglect in Colorado is a violation of C.R.S. 18-6.5-1033. It is a failure to provide any of the following:
- Physical and mental health care
- Medical care
- Appropriate supervision
The maximum possible penalty for caretaker neglect in Colorado is 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. Colorado law defines a caretaker as someone responsible for the care of an older person because of family relationships, legal relationships, assumption of duties or payment for services. A caregiver may or may not work at a long-term care facility. It is not a violation of law for a caregiver to provide care in accordance with advanced medical directives and end-of-life wishes.
What Is Criminal Exploitation of an Elder in Colorado?
Criminal exploitation of an elder in Colorado violates C.R.S. 18-6.5-1022. It occurs when a person does any of the following:
- Deceives, harasses, intimidates or influences an at-risk adult to deprive them of money or property
- Takes advantage of a victim in employment; forced labor
- Misuses the elder’s property and, in doing so, impacts the elder’s ability to meet basic needs and get health care
What Are Colorado’s Elder Abuse Laws?
Colorado’s elder abuse laws are Colorado Revised Statutes Title 18, Criminal Law, Chapter 6.5, Wrongs to At-Risk Adults⁴. There are several actions that are crimes only when they occur against an elderly person. Plus, some offenses carry a more severe penalty when the victim is an elder. In addition to criminal offenses, elder abuse may be a civil offense. The victim may bring their own claim for compensation regardless of whether the offender faces criminal charges.
What Is Criminal Neglect Against an Elder in Colorado?
Criminal neglect against an elder in Colorado is a violation of Colorado law 18-6.5-1033. The law penalizes any act that creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk that results in harm to an elder. Criminal negligence is similar to manslaughter in that the person acts without a specific intent to cause harm. It is enough to result in a criminal penalty when a person creates an unreasonable risk that harms an elder.
When criminal negligence results in a non-serious bodily injury, the penalty is up to one year in jail. The penalties increase with the severity of the harm to the victim. If criminal negligence results in death, the maximum possible penalty is six years in prison.
Recognizing Elder Abuse in Colorado
When looking to recognize elder abuse in Colorado, it’s essential to be aware that elder abuse can take many forms. Elder abuse may be intentional harm, such as assault, or neglect, like a caregiver who fails to arrange for needed medical care. It may take the form of physical injury or the deprivation of money and property. The typical goal of an abuser is to assert power over the victim for their own benefit. In addition, cruelty and inattention can result in victim abuse and neglect.
If you suspect that an elder is being mistreated, it’s crucial not to ignore the warning signs. Colorado has a comprehensive series of laws for addressing elder abuse in a variety of forms. Whether the victim is mistreated physically or financially, there may be a law that can protect your loved one.
Responding to Elder Abuse in Colorado
Here are some of the ways you can respond to Colorado elder abuse to help protect victims and hold the responsible party accountable for the injuries and suffering:
1. Report the Abuse to Adult Protective Services
If you suspect elder abuse in Colorado, you may make a report to Colorado Adult Protective Services. There are a number of individuals who must make reports when they have knowledge of elder abuse. Failing to make a report to Adult Protective Services when required is a criminal offense. It is also a criminal offense to make a false report.
2. Report the Abuse to the Police
In addition to contacting Adult Protective Services, it may be important to make a report to your local police department. Criminal charges begin through police investigations. The police take the complaint, investigate and submit a report to the state’s attorney. The state attorney determines if criminal charges are appropriate. Filing a police report is the first step in the process.
3. Bring a Civil Claim
Finally, it may be appropriate to bring a civil claim for compensation. A victim of elder abuse is the victim of a civil wrong under Colorado law. They may claim economic damages as well as compensation for pain and suffering. You can bring a civil claim whether the state authorizes criminal charges or not. The victim initiates a civil suit on their own.
Attorneys for Elder Abuse in Colorado
If you believe that you may be the victim of elder abuse, we invite you to meet with our team of elder abuse attorneys in Colorado. Let us help you understand how best to respond, including bringing a civil claim for financial compensation. The attorney-client privilege applies, and there’s no cost for your consultation. Contact us today to get started.
1Colorado Health Institute. (13 June 2013). Colorado’s Focus on Elder Abuse. Retrieved 4 June 2021 from https://www.coloradohealthinstitute.org/blog/colorados-focus-elder-abuse