Adult Protection Services (APS)

The purpose of the Adult Protective Services (APS) program is to protect adults who are susceptible to mistreatment or self-neglect. These adults are known as "at-risk adults."

Reporting Suspected Mistreatment/Self-Neglect

To make a report of suspected mistreatment or self-neglect of an at-risk adult, call the APS State Hotline toll-free at (844) 264-5497 or (970) 872-1230.

For more information see Colorado APS Website for additional resources and training.

Legal Authority for Adult Protection Services

The statutory authority for Adult Protective Services is contained in Parts 1 and 2 of the Colorado Statute, Title 26 - Human Services Code: Article 3.1 - “Protective Services for Adults At Risk of Mistreatment or Self-Neglect.” Part 1, Protective Services for At-Risk Adults gives direct statutory authority to the County Departments of Human Services to provide protective services to at-risk adults. Part 2, Financial Exploitation of At-Risk Adults strongly urges employees of financial institutions and other professional groups to report observed and suspected financial exploitation of at-risk adults to the Adult Protective Services program within the County Departments of Social (Human) Services. No other program entity in Colorado has the statutory authority to execute adult protective services.

Who are At-Risk Adults?

In the Colorado Adult Protective Services statute (law), an "at-risk adult" is defined as "an individual eighteen years of age or older who is susceptible to mistreatment or self-neglect because the individual is unable to perform or obtain services necessary for the individual's health, safety, or welfare or lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning the individual's person or affairs."

Adults who might meet the definition of an at-risk adult include:

  • Adults who are being mistreated or exploited
  • Adults with a developmental disability, acquired brain injury, Alzheimer's, dementia, or neurological or cognitive defect
  • Adults with a major mental illness
  • Frail or elderly persons who are unable to perform typical activities of daily living

Mistreatment Categories

  1. Physical abuse includes hitting, kicking, burning, confining, or restraining an adult. Signs are: Injuries, such as bruises, welts, burns, lacerations or abrasions, fractures
  2. Sexual abuse is sexual activity or touching without the consent or understanding. Signs are:
    • Difficulty walking or standing
    • Sexually transmitted diseases
    • Pain and/or itching in the genital area
    • Exacerbation of existing illness
    • Odd, misplaced comments about sex or sexual behavior
    • Scared, timid behavior
    • Fear of certain people or of physical characteristics
  3. Self-abuse is the infliction of injury to the adult by the adult’s own hand or volition. Signs are:
    • Head injuries
    • Hair loss from pulling
    • Self-inflicted cuts or bruises
    • Malnutrition/dehydration
  4. Neglect is a lack of physical care by a caregiver. Signs are:
    • Improper administration of medications other drugs, and/or alcohol
    • Malnourishment
    • Dehydration
    • Unclean physical appearance, soiled clothing, bedsores
    • Unsanitary living conditions
  5. Financial Exploitation is using an at-risk adult’s money/property for another’s benefit. Signs are:
    • Unpaid monthly bills
    • Missing income or resources
    • Transfer of assets
    • Abuse of a Power of Attorney
    • Denied access to funds

Self Neglect

Self-neglect occurs when an at-risk adult cannot or does not care for themselves. Choice of lifestyle, by itself, is not proof of self-neglect. Some signs of self-neglect are:

  • Non-compliance with or inability to take medicines as prescribed
  • Malnutrition and/or dehydration
  • Inadequate or inappropriate diet
  • Unclean physical appearance, soiled clothing, decayed teeth, broken glasses, overgrown nails
  • Unsanitary conditions in the home
  • Wandering or getting lost
  • Confusion, disorientation, or memory impairment

The Adult Protective Services statute does not authorize APS programs to investigate reports of emotional and verbal abuse.

Who Should Report

All Colorado citizens are encouraged to immediately report suspected mistreatment or self-neglect of an at-risk adult. Certain occupational groups are urged by state law to report the mistreatment and/or self-neglect of an at-risk adult including:

  • Physicians, surgeons, physicians’ assistants
  • Medical examiners or coroners
  • Hospital and nursing home personnel
  • Psychologists and other mental health professionals
  • Dentists; Pharmacists
  • Law enforcement officials and Fire Protection personnel
  • Court-appointed guardians and conservators
  • Community centered board staff
  • Personnel of banks and other financial institutions
  • State and local long-term care ombudsmen

Any caretaker, staff member, or employee of or volunteer or consultant for any licensed care facility, agency, home, or governing board.

What to Report

When making a report to Adult Protective Services (APS), provide as much information as possible about the adult and the alleged perpetrator. Such as:

The adult's:

  • Name, address, and phone
  • Date of birth, or estimated age
  • Medical and/or disabling condition(s)
  • Family members, friends, neighbors or caregivers

The adult’s situation:

  • Specific concerns (allegations)
  • History of previous safety concerns
  • Names and contact information of family, friends, or other persons who might be of assistance during an investigation

The alleged perpetrator(s):

  • Name, address, and phone number
  • Relationship to/history with the at-risk adult

What Happens When You Report

Confidentiality and Liability of the Reporter

All issues pertaining to APS cases are confidential, including the identity of the reporter(s), client information, and APS' response orders.

Persons making a report of mistreatment or self-neglect of an at-risk adult in good faith are immune from civil or criminal liability. Reporters who knowingly makes a false report, may be charged with a class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a maximum $750 fine.

After a Report is Made

After a report is received by the County Department of Social (Human) Services, and it is determined that the adult meets the definition of an at-risk adult and the allegations meet the definition of mistreatment or self-neglect the county may determine:

  • That an APS investigation will not take place because the adult is not an at-risk adult or because the allegations do not meet the definition of mistreatment or self-neglect information is provided to the reporter about other resources/services.
  • That an APS investigation is necessary, and an APS caseworker will investigate, gathering more information, by calling or visiting the at-risk adult and/or the person who made the report, and other persons, who might have relevant information.

Refusal of Protective Services

At-risk adults have the right to refuse adult protective services. If services are refused and the county APS program believes that the adult retains decision-making capacity, no further action is taken.

If an adult refuses protective services and the county APS program has significant concerns about the at-risk adult’s capacity to make such a decision, the county program may:

  • Encourage interested and reliable family members or others to petition the court to determine the at-risk adult’s decision-making capacity; or
  • If no appropriate family members or others are willing or capable of petitioning the court, the County Department of Social (Human) Services may petition the court to determine the at-risk adult’s decision-making capacity.