Legal Information: Tennessee

Statutes: Tennessee

View all
Updated: 
May 18, 2022

39-15-501. Definitions

As used in this part, unless the context otherwise requires:

(1) “Abandonment” means the knowing desertion or forsaking of an elderly or vulnerable adult by a caregiver under circumstances in which there is a reasonable likelihood that physical harm could occur;

(2) “Abuse” means the infliction of physical harm;

(3) “Adult protective services” means the division of adult protective services of the department of human services;

(4) “Caregiver”:

(A)(i) Means a relative or person who has a legal duty to provide care for an elderly or vulnerable adult, whether such duty arises by the relative or person’s claim or conduct, contract, or in any other fashion; or

(ii) Means a person who is married to or in a dating, romantic, or sexual relationship with someone who qualifies as a caregiver under subdivision (4)(A)(i) and resides with or has regular contact with the elderly or vulnerable adult; and

(B) Does not include a financial institution as a caregiver of property, funds, or other assets unless the financial institution has entered into an agreement, or has been appointed by a court of competent jurisdiction, to act as a trustee with regard to the property of the adult;

(5) “Confinement”:

(A) Means the knowing and unreasonable restriction of movement of an elderly or vulnerable adult by a caregiver;

(B) Includes, but is not limited to:

(i) Placing a person in a locked room;

(ii) Involuntarily separating a person from the person’s living area;

(iii) The use of physical restraining devices on a person; or

(iv) The provision of unnecessary or excessive medications to a person; and

(C) Does not include the use of the methods or devices described in subdivision (5)(B) if used in a licensed facility in a manner that conforms to state and federal standards governing confinement and restraint;

(6) “Elderly adult” means a person seventy (70) years of age or older;

(7) “Financial exploitation” means:

(A) The use of deception, intimidation, undue influence, force, or threat of force to obtain or exert unauthorized control over an elderly or vulnerable adult’s property with the intent to deprive the elderly or vulnerable adult of property;

(B) The breach of a fiduciary duty to an elderly or vulnerable adult by the person’s guardian, conservator, or agent under a power of attorney which results in an appropriation, sale, or transfer of the elderly or vulnerable adult’s property; or

(C) The act of obtaining or exercising control over an elderly or vulnerable adult’s property, without receiving the elderly or vulnerable adult’s effective consent, by a caregiver or accomplice committed with the intent to benefit the caregiver or other third party;

(8)(A) “Neglect” means:

(i) The failure of a caregiver to provide the care, supervision, or services necessary to maintain the physical health of an elderly or vulnerable adult, including, but not limited to, the provision of food, water, clothing, medicine, shelter, medical services, a medical treatment plan prescribed by a healthcare professional, basic hygiene, or supervision that a reasonable person would consider essential for the well-being of an elderly or vulnerable adult;

(ii) The failure of a caregiver to make a reasonable effort to protect an elderly or vulnerable adult from abuse, sexual exploitation, neglect, or financial exploitation by others;

(iii) Abandonment; or

(iv) Confinement; and

(B) Neglect can be the result of repeated conduct or a single incident;

(9) “Physical harm” means an action, regardless of gravity or duration, that:

(A) Causes pain or injury; or

(B) Would cause a reasonable person to suffer pain or injury;

(10) “Relative” means a current or former spouse; child, including stepchild, adopted child, or foster child; parent, including stepparent, adoptive parent, or foster parent; sibling of the whole or half-blood; step-sibling; grandparent, of any degree; grandchild, of any degree; and aunt, uncle, niece, and nephew, of any degree, who:

(A) Resides with or has frequent or prolonged contact with the elderly or vulnerable adult; and

(B) Knows or reasonably should know that the elderly or vulnerable adult is unable to adequately provide for the adult’s own care or financial resources;

(11) “Serious physical harm” means physical harm of such gravity that:

(A) Would normally require medical treatment or hospitalization;

(B) Involves acute pain of such duration that it results in substantial suffering;

(C) Involves any degree of prolonged pain or suffering; or

(D) Involves any degree of prolonged incapacity;

(12) “Serious psychological injury” means any mental harm that would normally require extended medical treatment, including hospitalization or institutionalization, or mental harm involving any degree of prolonged incapacity;

(13) “Sexual exploitation” means an act committed upon or in presence of an elderly or vulnerable adult, without that adult’s effective consent, that is committed for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification, or for the purpose of dissemination to others by a person who knew or should have known the act would offend or embarrass a reasonable person. “Sexual exploitation” includes, but is not limited to, sexual contact, as defined in § 39-13-501; exposure of genitals to an elderly or vulnerable adult; exposure of sexual acts to an elderly or vulnerable adult; exposure of an elderly or vulnerable adult’s sexual organs; an intentional act or statement by a person intended to shame, degrade, humiliate, or otherwise harm the personal dignity of an elderly or vulnerable adult; or an act or statement by a person who knew or should have known the act or statement would cause shame, degradation, humiliation, or harm to the personal dignity of an elderly or vulnerable adult. “Sexual exploitation” does not include any act intended for a valid medical purpose, or any act reasonably intended to be a normal caregiving act, such as bathing by appropriate persons at appropriate times; and(14) “Vulnerable adult” means a person eighteen (18) years of age or older who, because of intellectual disability or physical dysfunction, is unable to fully manage the person’s own resources, carry out all or a portion of the activities of daily living, or fully protect against neglect, exploitation, or hazardous or abusive situations without assistance from others.

WomensLaw serves and supports all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.