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News for Norther Colorado and the world

Monday, July 16, 2018

Elder Abuse

Johnson_Steve

By: Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson

You’re 85 years old. You’ve had a stroke and you wake up in a nursing home, alone and confused with a lot of questions. It is likely you will spend the rest of your life in this room, although you don’t want to accept that. Where before you took care of all of your needs and affairs, you are now dependent on strangers. Incapacitated and perhaps with some degree of dementia, you are now at increased risk of abuse, fraud and exploitation

This is not an uncommon scenario in Larimer County. Our senior population aged 65 and older will more than double in the next 20 years. With the over 85 age group being the fastest growing segment of our population, the challenges of protecting our seniors is even more urgent.

It’s important to stress that the vast majority of caregivers in many different settings are dedicated professionals doing a very difficult job every day with compassion. I know this from personal experience visiting my father’s nursing home in Florida. Nor is this the only scenario where seniors are at risk of abuse.

So just what is elder abuse? Elder abuse is any knowing, intentional, or negligent act that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. It is estimated that 5 million Americans are victims of elder abuse. Elders can be victims of financial fraud, scams, physical or emotional abuse, neglect or exploitation. Victims come from all walks of life, races, and economic status. It happens here.

Larimer County is a strong supporter of protections to the safety, security, human rights and dignity of our seniors. In 2014, the county received over 1,000 reports of suspected elder abuse. Colorado was one of the last three states to pass a mandatory reporter law last year requiring certain professionals to report suspected abuse of adults over 70, and since its passage we have seen a 40% increase in such reports. Each report is taken seriously and assessed and investigated as warranted.

Unfortunately, many instances remain unreported. It is estimated for each case reported, from 5 to 20 go unreported. Any case of suspected abuse to any at risk adult should be reported to Larimer County Adult Protective Services at (970) 498-7770. The identity of those who report is kept confidential. You do not have to prove abuse, if you suspect it, report it. Trained investigators will determine the proper course of action.

Learn the common signs of elder abuse such as bruises, unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, or changed financial situations. The suffering is often silent. If you notice changes in personality, behavior, or physical condition, start to question. For more information visit the National Center on Elder Abuse at www.ncea.aoa.gov.

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Larimer County will be sponsoring an event on Friday June 12th at the Ranch to share information and strategies with invited professionals in the field to learn more about elder abuse and elder abuse reporting. Working together, we can give our precious seniors the protection and dignity they deserve.

 

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Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson represents District 2 and has served since 2009.

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