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Colorado Law Change Prompts Influx of Elder Abuse

According to an article shared on the Denver Post, elder abuse cases throughout Colorado have never been higher and are only expected to increase in the coming months. One man realized his mother had been subjected to financial exploitation by her caregiver, a women he originally hired. The caregiver stole $16,000 from his mother's account and had even written checks to herself in his mother's name. She was arrested, but the victim's son could not shake the guilt he felt.

Unfortunately, this case is only a small taste of the problem Colorado is currently experiencing. A new law went into effect in July of 2014, stating that people in certain occupations are required to report elder abuse in Colorado. Because of this, the Jefferson County District Attorney's office is experiencing double the amount of elder abuse cases with nearly 4,000 reported statewide thus far.

How will Colorado handle this problem?

Jefferson County, also referred to as Jeffco, has the only unit dedicated to elder abuse at a district attorney's office. The staff members are preparing for what is to come. The founder and head of the unit guessed that based on what the state has already seen, additional resources will be necessary.

The Jeffco District Attorney's office has received 47 new elder abuse cases, compared to just 23 in the first six months of 2014. The unit has a full-time prosecutor and investigator prepared to handle the cases, but it may not be enough.

Other district-level district attorneys may be pulled in to help with the efforts if the needs arises. The head of the Jeffco unit said that cases of financial exploitation are the most challenging to resolve. Elder abuse can also include physical assaults to sexual and emotional mistreatment.

In an effort to prevent financial scams, the Jeffco unit regularly does outreach to elderly individuals in the community. Additionally, the office is working with banks and law enforcement agencies in the area to achieve the same goal.

The District Attorney voiced his concern that more offices in the state need to follow suit and do something to combat this problem. While the Sherriff's Office in Jeffco has not yet had to employ new officers, they have noticed an increase in elder abuse cases.

An especially noteworthy aspect of the Jeffco unit is to actually visit with elders in their homes and simply talk to them for hours at a time. This helps staff members assess the situation and develop expectations for the future.