Elder Abuse

If you or someone you know who is age 70 or older and might be being abused or neglected, call the police or Adult Protective Services to make a report.

Elder abuse is when someone:

  • Causes harm to an older adult. Harm can be physical or sexual
  • Takes money or other assets from an older adult. Assets can be things such as jewelry, house, or other property
  • Neglects the basic needs of an older adult on purpose

In Colorado, the laws against elder abuse focus on victims aged 70 years or older. According to Colorado law, elder abuse falls under the laws called Crimes Against At-Risk Adults. This also includes any adult over the age of 18 with a disability.

Sometimes older adults who are being abused:

  • Seem scared around the suspected abuser
  • Are often fighting with the person who may be an abuser
  • Try to please or not anger abuser
  • Seem sad or alone, and/or have low self-esteem
  • Seem scared, easily startled, hyper-alert, and/or emotionally numb
  • Stop doing normal activities - for example, things they used to like to do
  • Have frequent injuries that cannot be explained - for example, bruises or broken bones
  • Seem to be losing weight
  • Do not have food in the refrigerator or all the food is spoiled
  • Have bed sores
  • Live in places that seems unhealthy or unsafe - for example, a home with bed bugs, rodents, or feces
  • Have poor hygiene
  • Have no heat or running water
  • Miss many doctor appointments or stop going to the doctor

If you or someone you know needs help on this topic, click here for some Denver-based and national organizations click here for some Denver-based and national organizations.

To see Colorado statutes on elder abuse, click here.

More on Elder Abuse

To read a little bit more about the different ways elder abuse can look, read below. This section is to help people learn how elder abuse can look in relationships. This section does not give legal definitions of crimes.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is when someone does things such as make threats, bullies, slams, or shames a victim over and over again. Emotional abuse can cause emotional harm.

Sometimes abusive caretakers:

  • Humiliate the victim in front of other people. - for example, leaving the older adult’s private body parts exposed for others to see or making threats to put the older adult in a nursing home
  • Control who the older adult sees or what the older adult does - for example, say who the older adult can be friends with
  • Threaten to harm the older adult or their pets
  • Threaten to take away the older adult’s transportation or other things that help the older adult live independently

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is when someone touches an older adult who did not want to be touched and causes pain or injury.

Sometimes abusive caretakers:

  • Punch, kick, scratch, strangle (also called choke), slap, or bite
  • Push, shove, or grab
  • Throw things
  • Use or threaten to use a weapon
  • Confine an older adult improperly, such as tying them to a bed or wheelchair
  • Do not give medicine or give the wrong dose

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is when a sexual act is unwanted or the older adult cannot consent. Sexual abuse can happen once or many times. Sexual abuse can happen even after the older adult has had consensual sex with the person before.

Sometimes abusive people:

  • Pressure older adults to get sex
  • Have rough or violent sex that is unwanted
  • Rape or try to rape
  • Say they will not use condoms
  • Have sexual contact when older adults are sleeping or passed out
  • Force older adults to have sexual contact with others for money or drugs

Financial abuse

Financial abuse is when someone tries to control the older adults’ money or assets. The abuser could be a stranger or someone the older adult knows, such as an adult child, caretaker, or spouse. Most financial abuse is carried out by someone the older adult knows and trusts.  

Sometimes abusive people:

  • Steal the older adult’s money or possessions
  • Sell possessions or property without permission
  • Sell possessions or property when the older adult cannot give permission - for example, because the older adult has dementia
  • Forge the older adult’s signature in order to get money
  • Steal the older adult’s identity
  • Take control of the older adult's funds without permission
  • Take advantage of having the older adult’s “financial power of attorney”
  • Force the older adult to write or sign legal documents such as wills, estate documents, or bank documents

Sometimes, older adults are targeted for financial scams. For example:

  • Telephone fraud, such as claiming they won a prize or claiming a family member is in danger
  • Investment fraud

For more information on fraud, click here.


Neglect of an older adult happens when the caregiver does not provide needed care. Neglect can happen on purpose or by accident. Caregivers who commit neglect can be family members, friends, or paid caregivers.

Sometimes neglectful caregivers:

  • Leave the older adult alone without help for long periods of time
  • Do not give enough food or drink
  • Do not give enough clothing or hygiene

Do not get the older adult medical care; this can include not giving medicine or not taking an older adult to the doctor after an injury