Senior neglect and abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins commend Colorado legislators for finally enacting a law that requires professionals in certain occupations to report all forms of elder abuse. Now there are only two states left in the nation without an elder abuse law.
The bill was drafted after an elder abuse task force met last summer, urging bipartisan Colorado lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 111 into law, which was achieved in late May 2013. Among the specific occupations cited in the bill include nurses, law enforcements, chiropractors, dentists, nursing home staff, social workers, clergy members, and finance professionals among others.
The law requires these professionals to report any and all known or suspected instances abuse, neglect, or exploitation of anyone over the age of 70. Coloradans working in these occupations are required to report these to law enforcement officials within 24 hours of observing or hearing reports of the abuse. It is worth noting that the bill was amended to observe the penitent privilege of clergy members. This allows the member of the clergy to keep certain details and information confidential, such as when a parishioner gives a confession to a priest.
Furthermore, anyone required by law to report senior abuse who fails to do so could face a class three misdemeanor charge for knowing disregard. After the abuse is reported and there is probable cause to believe its merit, law enforcement officials will conduct criminal investigations into the issue.
By the first of the year in 2013 law enforcement agencies throughout the state will have training curriculums established for officers who will handle such cases. Each county sheriff and each municipal law enforcement agency will be required to have at least one officer complete the training.
The state's Department of Human Services Adult Service Program will receive $3 million and one full-time employee to help with training program implementation and other aspects of the law's new requirements.
One of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Sue Schafer, stated that the bill is meant to protect those who are most vulnerable from mistreatment and abuse. She went on to champion the Colorado government for showing what true bipartisanship can accomplish.
Elder abuse, neglect and exploitation can take many forms, which is why there is such a wide array of occupations listed as mandatory reporters. Abuse can include physical, sexual or emotional misconduct, neglecting or deserting a senior you are responsible for, and/or taking or abusing an elderly person's money or personal property. These types of criminal acts may occur within the family, a church, or other trusted organizations like nursing homes or assisted living communities.
This may also extend to instances of self-neglect, referring to cases where there is no known perpetrator, but the senior is clearly deteriorating or unable to fulfill their basic needs. Those most at risk are seniors with cognitive disabilities, such as Alzheimer's or dementia, and those with no known extended family.
Indicators of abuse, neglect and exploitation include physical signs of poor or neglected care, changes in behavior, and the condition of the elder's home or living space. Physical indicators of abuse may include poor personal hygiene, improper clothing, bodily deformations, dehydration or malnutrition, untreated medical conditions, and worsening dementia.
Financial exploitation may involve inducing a senior into signing a legal document or giving a gift which they do not fully understand or consent to; consent is only legal and proper when the person consenting has the sufficient mental capacity to understand the implications of the action. Furthermore, the principle of undue influence may have significant applications here. Undue influence is when a strong or powerful individual makes a weaker individual do something they would not have normally done by manipulation and other various techniques.
Elder abuse and neglect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins encourage Colorado residents to educate themselves on this recent elder abuse law. If you or a loved one was seriously injured due to the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of another, you may be entitled to significant compensation for any medical bills and emotional distress.