1,600 investigations of Colo. elder abuse stem from new law

Photo: Elder abuse (AP Photo)
In this Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, file photo, a caregiver takes an elderly woman who has suffered abuse at the hands of a relative to her room at Cedar Village retirement community in Mason, Ohio.

For the first time, authorities have some idea of the extent of elder abuse in Colorado.

On July 1st, a new law went into effect mandating that people in a wide array of professions report any suspect abuse of people over 70 years old.

Since then, state has received more than 3200 reports of possible crimes against senior citizens between the beginning of July and the end of October.

According to state officials, nearly half of the reports merited investigation. Of those, 54 percent were for caretaker neglect and exploitation. Physical and sexual abuse were suspected in another six percent.

The rest of the cases were seniors the authorities believed might not be able to adequately care for themselves.

"We are really hearing a lot from physicians, hospitals, and the big one on this is bankers," said Viki Manley, head of Colorado's Office of Community Access and Independence, which is overseeing the law's implementation.

"Financial institutions who are watching that financial exploitation, that’s been a really great piece of this statute," she said.

During its first quarter in effect, investigators verified 114 reports of financial exploitation, with a total value of more than $13 million, according to figures supplied by the Colorado Department of Human Services.

The new law also includes several million dollars for counties to hire more caseworkers specifically for vulnerable elderly adults and to fund programs to aid them.

"This is really game changing for not only being able to prosecute elder crime, but to focus in on the services that they need," said Manley.

Colorado is the 48th state to pass a law requiring professionals report suspected crimes against the elderly.