When an elderly loved one is in danger, we hope that someone will alert us or that we will be able to recognize the signs ourselves. Unfortunately, that does not always happen, as we discussed in a previous post about why elder abuse and neglect often go unreported.
But make no mistake: There are measures in Colorado to help people expose elder abuse, including mandatory reporting requirements.
Who is a mandatory reporter?
Mandatory reporting laws require certain people to notify authorities if they suspect that someone 70 or older is the victim of abuse or is in imminent danger of abuse. These parties include:
- Healthcare workers
- Bankers and other financial institution personnel
- Law enforcement agents
- Mental health providers
- Crisis counselors
- Daycare providers
These individuals are often in a position to engage with vulnerable people in a way that allows insight into a person’s health, financial resources and well-being.
What must they report?
Under state mandatory reporting laws, parties should report to authorities any indications that a person is being abused, neglected or exploited. Indications of abuse might include:
- Bruises, cuts or other signs of being restrained
- Being fearful of their caretakers
- Not being permitted to speak for themselves
- Not being allowed to interact with others freely
- Confusion over financial transactions
- Making unusual bank withdrawals
- Being accompanied at the doctor’s office or bank by a stranger
- Signs of dehydration or malnutrition
If a mandatory reporter sees any of these or other warning signs, they must report it to law enforcement within 24 hours.
Still an imperfect system
Despite these legal requirements, seniors remain a highly vulnerable population. They suffer physical, sexual, mental and financial abuse at the hands of exploitative parties who prey on individuals who do not have the capacity or resources to protect themselves.
While mandatory reporting requirements cannot always prevent elder abuse, they can help to reduce the number of incidents of abuse and financial exploitation.