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Signs an elderly loved may have become a victim of abuse

At our law firm, we help our clients with many aspects of elder law, including legal matters related to preventing or responding to the abuse of elderly loved ones.

We recently discussed the financial exploitation of Colorado elders, including the Colorado law that makes this type of behavior against an at-risk senior a serious state crime. In addition to financial, elders may be the victims of other types of negligent or intentional abuse: physical, sexual, verbal or emotional. Abuse may result from affirmative action or from neglect.

Elder exploitation and our clients

When issues of elder abuse of any type arise for our clients, we provide legal advice about how to take steps to protect their beloved vulnerable loved ones. For example, we may help a family member become a court-appointed guardian responsible for personal care and well being.

If a person is aging, but still able to manage his or her affairs, we may draft a will, power of attorney or living will to help the client plan for and protect him or herself in the event of eventual incapacity. An elder may also request advocacy or assistance to stop abuse or neglect on his or her own behalf.

For a client who is a guardian, conservator or trustee or who has another role with fiduciary or legal duties to protect a vulnerable senior, we help the client understand what the law requires of him or her vis-à-vis the protected person. We also provide advice and guidance when the person becomes aware that exploitation or abuse of any kind may have occurred and protective actions must be taken, including certain mandated reporting responsibilities under state law.

Symptoms or circumstances suggesting abuse

Elder abuse may be perpetuated by a family member or friend, by an in-home care provider or in a long-term care facility and such exploitation may not always be easy to recognize or uncover.

This challenge is even harder when the victim has a medical condition like Alzheimer's disease or other dementia; the symptoms of stroke; or memory, sight or hearing loss. In such circumstances, his or her ability to recognize abuse or to report it may be diminished.

Elderly victims also may not speak up for complicated reasons related to depression, embarrassment or fear. For example, the victim may be afraid because the perpetrator may be the only person providing care or vital services.

Some signs that may raise the suspicion of elder abuse include:

  • Sexual: unexplained STD, visible injury to personal area of body, fear, sudden change in behavior and torn clothing
  • Verbal: evidence of threats, belittling or yelling by caregiver or another person
  • Emotional: withdrawal, depression, fear, abrupt changes in mood or behavior, controlling or harsh behavior by caregiver
  • Neglect: stench, poor hygiene, run down or dirty physical conditions, inadequate nutrition or hydration, inappropriate clothing, isolation, lack of medical care, failure to provide medical equipment or inadequate dental care.

Anyone in Denver or across Colorado who suspects elder abuse of any type should obtain legal guidance from an experienced elder law attorney.

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