Nursing home abuse and neglect is a far more common problem than many of us realize. Abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or even sexual. Our elders are particularly vulnerable, as they may be unable to defend themselves or even properly communicate that a problem exists. If your loved one suffers from an intellectual disability, it is far more likely that they will become a victim of abuse or neglect.

What is an intellectual disability?

Sunrise House is a treatment facility, and part of the American Addiction Centers program. Their website tells us, “An intellectual disability is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5) as a condition that impairs the individual’s general mental abilities and impacts adaptive functioning. These people have significant trouble in intellectual domains like reading, math, and memory, have impaired social skills, and struggle with everyday self-care that is necessary to maintain an independent lifestyle.”

Caring for someone with an intellectual disability can be extremely frustrating. While some individuals require the intensive care provided by a nursing home, others are able to make use of assisted living facilities. In either situation, caregivers work day in and day out with the mentally impaired, often working long hours for low wages. In short, the work conditions inherent in the healthcare system combined with the standard business model of long-term care facilities create an environment ripe for neglect and abuse.

Tennessee isn’t helping

In November of last year, the State Comptroller’s Office released a Performance Audit Report for the Tennessee Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities. The board is responsible for investigating complaints of abuse and placing abusive healthcare workers with an online registry to alert potential employers.

According to the Tennessean, “The state is months behind in investigating reports of patient abuse in hospitals and nursing homes, falling far short of the 48-hour turnaround required to conduct on-site investigations in cases where the risk of ‘immediate jeopardy’ is suspected, potentially leaving patients at risk… Some investigations took up to 146 days to begin.”

The board is facing serious issues in addition to the backlog of abuse complaints. In one instance, there was a 10-month delay before a healthcare worker was placed on the state’s abuse registry. Further, auditors found that some fines intended to prevent medication from being administered improperly were so low that facilities would rather pay the fines than hire properly licensed staff.

The board cited a significant increase in complaints and a lack of adequate staff when questioned about the audit. Since November, the board has filled 6 of 12 vacant positions and is creating an “electronic planning system” to “enhance efficiency.”

Elder abuse is a serious problem, and our state is compounding the issue instead of solving it. While committees plan to finally use a computer to create an inspection schedule, our loved ones are suffering abuse and neglect at the hands of trusted healthcare workers.

The best way to protect your loved one is to be involved in their care. However, life is busy; even the most involved family members can miss signs of abuse or neglect. If your loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect by a long-term care facility, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills and pain and suffering. The experienced Tennessee nursing home abuse attorneys at Rocky McElhaney Law can evaluate your case and help get you the compensation you deserve. Visit our offices in Nashville, Gallatin, or Knoxville, or contact us today.