A nursing home (sometimes called a “long-term care facility”) is a residential facility that provides health and personal care services for elderly or disabled people.
Though abuse can occur anywhere, it’s particularly common in nursing homes due to the fact that many residents are unable to report instances of abuse.
In Tennessee, nursing home abuse falls under medical malpractice, and residents have legal rights. In this article, we’ll look at the laws that protect nursing home residents, and we’ll provide some steps you can take if you or a loved one has been abused.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) identifies 6 common types of nursing home abuse:
|Physical abuse||The use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment (slapping, kicking, shoving, etc.).|
|Sexual abuse||Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with a resident (rape, coerced nudity, unwanted touching, etc.).|
|Emotional or psychological abuse||The infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts (verbal insults, verbal threats, the "silent treatment", etc.).|
|Neglect||The refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a staff member’s obligations or duties to a resident (failure to provide food, water, clothing, personal hygiene, medicine, etc.).|
|Abandonment||Desertion of a resident by a staff member who assumed responsibility for providing care for the resident.|
|Financial||The illegal or improper use of a resident's funds, property, or assets (stealing money, deceiving a resident into signing a will, etc.).|
Approximately 1.6 million people live in more than 17,000 licensed nursing homes throughout the country. The rates of nursing home abuse are alarmingly high. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2 in 3 nursing home staff report that they have committed abuse within the last year.
Unfortunately, nursing home residents in Tennessee are not free from abuse.
In 2019, a federal Special Focus Facility (SFF) report identified a number of nursing homes that have a “persistent record of poor care,” including abuse.
Eleven nursing homes on the list are located in Tennessee:
Nursing home residents have a number of legal rights in Tennessee. The full list can be found in Title 68, Chapter 11, Part 9 of the Tennessee Code. Here are some of the highlights:
✔ The right to privacy during treatment and personal care
✔ The right to visit in private with their spouse
✔ The right to communicate by telephone with any person they choose
✔ The right to take part in religious activities
✔ The right to receive unopened mail
✔ The right to be free from forced labor
✔ The right to refuse treatment
✔ The right to manage their own financial affairs
✔ The right to be free from chemical and physical restraints, except upon specific written orders of the treating physician
✔ The right to be free from willful abuse or neglect
✔ The right to be treated with consideration and respect
Additionally, there are a number of federal laws, including the Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA), that provide residents with similar rights.
If any state or federal rights are violated, nursing home residents (or family members acting on their behalf) can file a civil lawsuit to recover money damages.
There are a number of factors that make it difficult for nursing home residents to report abuse. For starters, nursing home residents often fear retaliation or have a medical condition (such as dementia) that makes it difficult for them to recognize and report abuse.
Similarly, nursing home staff may not report abuse for fear of retaliation or fear that it will diminish the reputation of the facility.
As a result, it’s incredibly important that family members look for signs of abuse when visiting and talking with their loved ones. Here are some examples of what to look for:
|Type of abuse||Signs of abuse|
|Source: Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability|
If you suspect that your loved one is being abused in a nursing home in Tennessee, there are steps you can take: