Staffing Shortages Contribute to Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Cases in Tennessee

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect in Tennesee

When we place our loved ones in a nursing home, we expect them to receive quality care in a safe environment. But tragically, many families across Tennessee have had to deal with the unimaginable – nursing home abuse and neglect of their elderly family members.

This isn’t just a problem in our state but a nationwide crisis that has been exacerbated by staffing shortages. In Tennessee, the situation is particularly dire, with the state ranking near the bottom for senior care staffing levels, according to a recent study.

So, what exactly constitutes nursing home abuse and neglect? And how can you protect your loved ones? We’re going to explore this alarming issue and share guidance on warning signs, reporting, and your legal rights as a resident’s family member.

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect in Tennessee

Nursing home abuse refers to the intentional mistreatment of a resident, whether it’s physical, emotional, sexual, or financial exploitation by staff or other residents.

Neglect is a separate but equally disturbing issue – it means a caregiver is failing to provide basic needs like food, water, hygiene, medical care, or safety supervision.

The statistics on this in Tennessee are startling. Citations for the most serious federal deficiencies that cause immediate jeopardy to residents spiked 145% from 2020 to 2022 according to the state Health Facilities Commission. In 2022, 11% of all citations fell into this highest risk category, up from just 3% in 2018.

For families, being able to recognize warning signs is crucial. These include:

  • Unusual bruises, cuts, burns or injuries
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Poor hygiene or being left unbathed
  • Appearing frightened, depressed or non-responsive
  • Unexplained withdrawals from accounts

If you notice anything that raises concern, it’s critical to investigate further and report suspected abuse immediately.

Real Stories of Abuse/Neglect and Their Devastating Impact

The human toll of nursing home abuse and neglect is immense. We’ve represented many Tennessee families who have had to witness a loved one tragically decline after being mistreated by caregivers who were trusted to protect them.

Stories like these underscore how high the stakes truly are. Nursing home residents are among our most vulnerable loved ones. When caretakers violate that sacred trust through abuse or neglect, the consequences can be catastrophic and permanent for the entire family.

Staffing Shortages – A Major Contributing Factor to Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

While there is never an excuse for patient mistreatment, the staffing crisis in nursing homes is unquestionably enabling more abuse and neglect to occur in Tennessee and nationwide.

Facilities are Dangerously Understaffed

A major study found that 38 states have over 50% annual staff turnover at nursing homes, with Tennessee’s median at a staggering 52%. The same research ranked Tennessee the 4th worst state for senior care staffing due to high turnover, staffing shortages, and lower ratios of aides to residents.

When facilities are critically understaffed, they create an environment ripe for neglect. Overworked employees get burnt out, rushing through feedings, bathing, shifting residents to prevent bedsores, and other essential tasks that get deprioritized.

The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated this issue, causing many care staff to leave the industry out of concern for their safety. This labor shortage has been felt acutely in nursing homes across Tennessee.

Staffing problems stem from a combination of low wages, lack of benefits, and high stress that leads to burnout. We frequently hear from nursing home staff about the challenges created by not having enough team members to provide the level of care each resident deserves.

State Oversight and Enforcement Needs Improvement

On paper, there are laws in place meant to prevent this understaffing crisis. Tennessee’s regulations establish minimum staffing levels and staff-to-resident ratios that facilities must maintain.

However, state regulators have been lacking in enforcement of these rules. Tennessee ranks fifth worst in the nation for delayed nursing home inspections, with many facilities going 2+ years without an audit, according to federal data.

When the Tennessee Department of Health does find serious deficiencies related to staffing at a home, the fines and penalties levied are often negligible for large operators. Or the violations are repeated year after year with limited consequences.

Citizen advocacy groups have pushed for stricter staffing laws and stronger oversight, but reform efforts have stalled. Until there is serious legislative action, the revolving door of underpaid, overworked staff will continue fueling more cases of abuse and neglect statewide.

Here’s a blog section discussing how staffing shortages contribute to nursing home abuse and neglect cases in Tennessee:

Worst Tennessee Nursing Homes for Serious Deficiencies

The link between dangerously low staffing levels and an inability to meet standards of care is starkly apparent when examining the state’s nursing homes with the highest numbers of serious deficiencies cited by regulators.

According to data from ProPublica, as of February 2024, four Tennessee facilities ranked among the top ten nationwide nursing homes with the most egregious violations:

Parkway Health And Rehabilitation Center in Memphis

  • 35 total deficiencies
  • 19 serious deficiencies
  • $704,549 in total fines
  • 44.4% nurse staff turnover

Midtown Center For Health And Rehabilitation in Memphis

  • 49 total deficiencies
  • 18 serious deficiencies
  • $613,838 in total fines
  • 79.2% nurse staff turnover

Graceland Rehabilitation And Nursing Care Center in Memphis

  • 29 total deficiencies
  • 16 serious deficiencies
  • $663,473 in total fines
  • 70.1% nurse staff turnover

Serene Manor Medical Ctr. in Knoxville

  • 38 total deficiencies
  • 15 serious deficiencies
  • No fines issued
  • 41.1% nurse staff turnover

The staggeringly high numbers of violations, massive fines, and elevated staff turnover rates at these four facilities paint a troubling picture of persistent negligence stemming from inadequate staffing and oversight.

Tips for Families Seeking Quality Nursing Home Care in Tennessee

When seeking long-term care for a loved one, thoroughly vetting a facility’s staffing situation is crucial for residents’ safety and well-being. Experts at Seniorly recommend families:

  1. Inquire about nurse-to-resident ratios and caregiver qualifications/training
  2. Ask how new staff is onboarded and what ongoing training is provided
  3. Review the facility’s records for citations, violations, and overall quality rating
  4. Speak directly with current caregivers about their experiences
  5. Seek recommendations from other local families

Anything less than a forthcoming, satisfactory response regarding staffing levels and high caregiver turnover should raise red flags about the facility’s ability to provide consistent, quality care.

While staffing issues alone do not necessarily indicate nursing home abuse or neglect is occurring, families must remain vigilant. Nursing homes have a legal obligation to meet stringent standards – if a facility is short-staffed to a degree that critically impacts patient health and safety, they’ve violated the very essence of their requirements.

Protecting Your Loved Ones: Warning Signs of Abuse and How to Report It

As a family, it’s critical to remain vigilant for any potential signs of abuse or neglect when a loved one is residing in a nursing home. Don’t hesitate to ask questions of staff and leadership if you have any concerns whatsoever.

Major warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect include:

  • Obvious injuries like bruises, burns, cuts, or fractures
  • Sudden weight loss or dehydration
  • Poor hygiene, like being left unbathed or in soiled clothing
  • Appearing depressed, fearful, or unwilling to speak openly
  • Unusual withdrawals or missing belongings

If you suspect any mistreatment, take the following steps immediately:

  1. Thoroughly document everything with notes and photographs
  2. Report the incident to the nursing home administrator and request an investigation
  3. Contact Tennessee’s Adult Protective Services hotline at 1-888-277-8366 to file a complaint
  4. Consult with a nursing home abuse lawyer about your legal options and holding the facility accountable

With the right preparation and constant involvement in your loved one’s care, you can help prevent them from being another heartbreaking victim of nursing home abuse or neglect.

When to Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

If your loved one has been the victim of any form of abuse or neglect at the hands of a nursing home staff member, it’s absolutely critical to exercise your legal rights and options with the help of an experienced lawyer.

At The Higgins Firm, we have represented numerous Tennessee families in cases involving neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, bedsores, malnourishment, failure to provide adequate medical care, and wrongful death, among other legal claims.

State law allows families only a limited window of time to take legal action, so acting quickly is important. Our firm will conduct an exhaustive investigation to gather all evidence of wrongdoing, ensure proper reporting to authorities, and fight aggressively to hold the facility and any negligent staff responsible while recovering full compensation for damages.

We know how devastating these cases are for families who have had to witness a loved one suffer immensely. You can count on our team to treat your case with utmost sensitivity while tenaciously advocating for justice to be served.

If you even suspect nursing home neglect or abuse may have occurred, call us immediately or contact us online for a free, confidential case evaluation. Our attorneys will advise you on the next steps to protect your family members and ensure their mistreatment is not allowed to continue.

Author Bio

Jim Higgins, founder of the Higgins Firm, is a seasoned personal injury attorney with deep roots in Nashville, Tennessee. A 4th generation Nashvillian, Jim carries on the legal legacy of his father, a judge for over 30 years. After graduating from the University of Memphis School of Law, Jim’s career began on the other side of the courtroom, defending insurance companies and learning their tactics for minimizing settlements. However, he soon realized his true calling was fighting for the rights of the injured, and for the past several years, he has exclusively represented plaintiffs in personal injury cases.

Since then, his dedication and skill have earned him membership in the prestigious Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an organization limited to attorneys who have secured million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for their clients. Licensed to practice in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia, Jim focuses on personal injury, product liability, medical malpractice, and workers’ compensation cases. His exceptional work has been recognized by his peers, earning him a spot on the Super Lawyers list from 2021 to 2024, a distinction awarded to only a select group of accomplished attorneys in each state.

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