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Because of a decline in their physical and mental abilities, many older Americans become vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Although the elderly may be easily victimized, officials and the media did not take notice until the 1980s. In 1987, after several U.S. Congress hearings disclosed the frequency and severity of the problem, Congress made definitions of elder abuse part of the Older Americans Act, 42 U.S.C. chap. 35 XI (2000). Subsequently, people understand elder abuse as a widespread phenomenon.

State laws have differing definitions of elder abuse, but the definitions usually include physical attacks, sexual abuse, intimidation and threats, psychological injury, and sometimes, physical confinement. Neglect—that is, the deprivation of basic needs such as food or adequate nutrition, adequate shelter, clothing, personal care, and medical ...

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