Legal Updates

Mandatory Reporting And The Rise Of Elder Abuse

The number of elderly people continues to rise across the nation. In fact, it is projected that approximately 1 in 5 Coloradans will be 65 years of age or older by the year 2030. Unfortunately, with the rise in the number of elderly people, the frequency of elder abuse is also on the rise, particularly for widows. Additionally, a recent report prepared by the state’s Strategic Action Planning Group indicated that Colorado citizens do not believe that the needs of seniors are a top priority for elected officials.

In response to the rise in elder abuse, legislation was passed a few years ago to require certain people to be held accountable to report elder abuse to law enforcement. C.R.S. § 18-6.5-108. Under Colorado law, these people are defined as mandatory reporters and are required to file a report with law enforcement if they witness or become aware of the fact that an at-risk elder, defined as any person 70 years of age or older, has been or is at imminent risk for abuse, caretaker neglect or exploitation. Exploitation is defined as the taking of an at-risk elder’s money or other assets against their will or without their knowledge. The report must be filed within 24 hours of observing or discovering the abuse, caretaker neglect or exploitation. Willful failure by a mandatory reporter to make a report is a class 3 Misdemeanor. Conviction can result in a fine of up to $750.00, a jail sentence of up to 6 months, or both.

Mandatory reporters include pharmacists, psychologists, mental health care providers, social workers, long-term care providers, care facility staff, home health providers, clergy members, law enforcement officials and personnel, court-appointed Guardians and Conservators, personnel of banks and other financial institutions, dentists, nurses, physicians, physician assistants, chiropractors and caretakers. Caretakers can be anyone, paid or unpaid, who has assumed the responsibility for the care of an at-risk elder by agreeing to provide recurring assistance to help the elder meet his or her basic needs, or has identified themselves as the elder’s caretaker.

A mandatory reporter is immune from civil and criminal liability as long as the report is made in good faith. However, making a good faith report of abuse, caretaker neglect or exploitation of an at-risk elder is certainly not limited to those people defined under the law as a mandatory reporter. Anyone aware of or witnessing such abuse should contact law enforcement or Adult Protective Services (APS).