Training to focus on stopping elderly abuse

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Violette Bartlett was almost 100 years old when her son started embezzling money from her.

By the time authorities charged John Bartlett with a crime in 2002, he had taken more than $136,000 from his mother. In addition to theft, police believe John Bartlett abused his mother, physically and emotionally.

John Bartlett died in Moffat County Jail in July of 2002. He was awaiting trial on charges of theft, theft from an at-risk adult, neglect of an at-risk adult and third degree assault of an at-risk adult.

An "at-risk adult" is someone older than 18 who is unable to care or provide for themselves because of mental or physical incapacitation.

Violette Bartlett's age and physical condition put her squarely in that category. She was 102 when she died in Valley View Manor in 2003.

The Violette Bartlett incident highlights many of the challenges elderly abuse cases create for police and Social Services -- challenges police plan to address at an elderly and at-risk adult abuse training session at the Public Safety Center Wednesday.

Craig Police Lt. John Forgay, who worked on the Bartlett case, said the training session will help police, Social Services and people in the medical field identify abuse when they see it.

Forgay said at-risk adult cases can be tough because the victims often suffer from dementia or have trouble remembering exactly what happened to them.

In the Bartlett case, proving John Bartlett inflicted Violette Bartlett's injuries -- which included numerous bruises -- was a major challenge.

Violette Bartlett's accounts of what happened often varied from day to day, making it difficult for police to prove John Bartlett was guilty of assault.

Plus, Forgay said, elderly victims often have a hard time admitting they were abused.

"Because of the generation they were brought up in, they can become very embarrassed," Forgay said.

If a family member is responsible for the abuse, as was the case with John and Violette Bartlett, the investigation can be even more challenging.

"It's difficult because they might depend on that relative for everything," Forgay said.

Marie Peer, director of Social Service of Moffat County, said detecting abuse by a relative is always a problem.

Peer and five caseworkers will attend Wednesday's training.

Peer said when the person responsible for caring for someone is abusing the elderly person, the victims is often sacred to report abuse.

"They start wondering, 'is it bad enough?'" Peer said.

A representative from the Colorado attorney general's office will teach Wednesday's four-hour training session.

The session also will examine ways to spot financial exploitation of at-risk adults.

To reach Brandon Johansson, call 824-7031, ext. 213.

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