Mandatory Reporting Requirements: The Elderly

Last Updated: March 2020
Question Answer

Who is required to report?

Any person, including, but not limited to, a physician, nurse, social worker, Department of Human Services personnel, coroner, medical examiner, alternate care facility employee, or caretaker.

When is a report required and where does it go?

When is a report required?

  • Reasonable cause to suspect that an adult has suffered abuse, neglect or exploitation.

Where does it go?

  • The Department of Human Services at 1-888-APS-TENN (1-888-277-8366) or online at: Suspected sexual offenses occurring in facilities licensed by the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities or any hospital must be reported to local law enforcement.
  • If a hospital, clinic, school, or any other organization or agency responsible for the care of adults has a specific procedure, approved by the director of adult protective services for the Department of Human Services, or the director’s designee, for the protection of adults who are victims of abuse, neglect, or exploitation, any member of its staff whose duty to report arises from the performance of the staff member’s services as a member of the staff of the organization may, at the staff member’s option, fulfill that duty by reporting instead to the person in charge of the organization or the organization head’s designee who shall make the report.
  • Each report of known or suspected abuse of an adult involving a sexual offense that is a violation of §§ 39-13-501 – 39-13-506 that occurs in a facility licensed by the department of mental health and substance abuse services as defined in § 33-2-402, or any hospital, shall also be made to the local law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where such offense occurred.

What definitions are important to know?

  • “Abuse or neglect” means:
    • the infliction of physical pain, injury, or mental anguish, or the deprivation of services by a caretaker that are necessary to maintain the health and welfare of an adult or a situation in which an adult is unable to provide or obtain the services that are necessary to maintain that person’s health or welfare. Nothing in this part shall be construed to mean a person is abused or neglected or in need of protective services for the sole reason that the person relies on or is being furnished treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone in accordance with a recognized religious method of healing in lieu of medical treatment; further, nothing in this part shall be construed to require or authorize the provision of medical care to any terminally ill person if such person has executed an unrevoked living will in accordance with the Tennessee Right to Natural Death Act, and if the provision of such medical care would conflict with the terms of such living will.
    • transporting an adult and knowingly abandoning, leaving or failing to provide additional planned transportation for the adult if the adult’s caretaker knows, or should know, that:
      • (i) the adult is unable to protect or care for himself or herself without assistance or supervision; and
      • (ii) the caretaker’s conduct causes or creates a substantial risk of physical pain, injury, mental anguish, or deprivation of services necessary to maintain one’s health or welfare.
  • “Adult” means a person 18 years of age or older who because of mental or physical dysfunctioning or advanced age (60 years or older) is unable to manage such person’s own resources, carry out the activities of daily living, or protect such person from neglect, hazardous or abusive situations without assistance from others and who has no available, willing and responsibly able person for assistance and who may be in need of protective services; provided, however, that a person 18 years of age or older who is mentally impaired but still competent shall be deemed to be a person with mental dysfunction.
  • “Caretaker” means an individual or institution who has assumed the duty to provide for the care of the adult by contract or agreement; and includes a parent, spouse, adult child or other relative, both biological or by marriage, who:
    • (i) resides with or in the same building with or regularly visits the adult;
    • (ii) knows or reasonably should know of the adult’s mental or physical dysfunction or advanced age; and
    • (iii) knows or reasonably should know that the adult is unable to adequately provide for the adult’s own care.

Note: Caretaker does not include a financial institution as a caretaker of funds or other assets unless the financial institution has agreed to or has been appointed by a court of competent jurisdiction to act as a trustee with regard to the property of the adult.

  • “Exploitation” means the improper use by a caretaker of funds that have been paid by a governmental agency to an adult or to the caretaker for the use or care of the adult.
  • “Sexual abuse” occurs when an adult is forced, tricked, threatened or otherwise coerced by a person into sexual activity, involuntary exposure to sexually explicit material or language, or sexual contact against such adult's will. Sexual abuse also occurs when an adult, as defined in this chapter, is unable to give consent to such sexual activities or contact and is engaged in such activities or contact with another person.

What timing and procedural requirements apply to reports?

  • Reports may be oral or written and must be made immediately upon knowledge of the occurrence of the suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult.

What information must a report include?

If known:

  • The name, address and age of the adult;
  • The name and address of any person responsible for the adult’s care;
  • The nature and extent of the abuse, neglect or exploitation, including any evidence of previous abuse, neglect or exploitation;
  • The identity of the perpetrator, if known;
  • The identity of the complainant, if possible; and
  • Any other information that the reporter believes might be helpful in establishing the cause of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

Anything else I should know?

  • Death of the adult does not relieve one of the responsibility for reporting the circumstances surrounding the death. However, unless the report indicates that there are other adults in the same or similar situation and that an investigation and provision of protective services are necessary to prevent their possible abuse, neglect or exploitation, it shall not be necessary for the Department of Human Services to make an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death; provided, that the appropriate law-enforcement agency is notified.
  • Any person who fails to make reasonable efforts to make a report required by this chapter commits a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by not greater than 11 months, 29 days, or a fine not to exceed $2,500, or both.
  • Any person making any report or investigation, including representatives of the Department of Human Services in the reasonable performance of their duties and within the scope of their authority, shall be presumed to be acting in good faith and shall thereby be immune from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise be incurred or imposed. Any such participant shall have the same immunity with respect to participation in any judicial proceeding resulting from such report or investigation. Any person making a report shall have a civil cause of action for appropriate compensatory and punitive damages against any person who causes a detrimental change in the employment status of the reporting party by reason of the report.
  • It is a Class A misdemeanor for a person to report, or knowingly cause another to report, to the Department of Human Services an accusation of abuse, sexual abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult if, at the time of the report or the conduct (as the case may be), the person knows or should know the accusation is false, punishable by not greater than 11 months, 29 days, or a fine not to exceed $2,500, or both.

Statutory citation(s):

Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 40-35-111, 71-6-102, 71-6-103, 71-6-105, 71-6-110, 71-6-123.

DNA evidence can increase likelihood of holding a perpetrator accountable.

Read More

Sexual violence has fallen by half in the last 20 years.

More Stats

The National Sexual Assault Hotline will always be free — with your help.

Donate Now