According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS), as outlined in a recent article in the Tennessean, almost 60% of the nursing homes in Tennessee scored below average ratings in staffing levels. Of the 319 nursing homes in the Tennessee, fully one in four received a one star rating out of a possible 5 stars. Patrick Willard, AARP advocacy director, cited this statistic as a sign that we are not doing our job in Tennessee to protect the elderly.
These results come from an annual survey done by the CMMS. Last year, Tennessee nursing homes ranked third worst in the country. That Tennessee inched up the list is not necessarily a sign of improved conditions in the State’s nursing homes and certainly we should not be proud that our nursing homes rank as the 45th best as opposed to the 47th best out of 50 states.
According to the Tennessean, the staffing levels are once again the most detrimental factor in pushing the ratings down in Tennessee’s nursing homes. One factor that plays into the low staffing levels in Tennessee is that state law requires facilities to have less staff than are recommended by Medicare. Medicare sets guidelines on staffing levels that it feels are necessary to properly care for the residents of each particular facility. In Tennessee, the State has largely ignored these staffing recommendations and requires even less staffing than Medicare feels is necessary to properly function and care for patients. According to the survey results, nursing homes in Tennessee have followed suit and mostly staff at levels that Medicare finds insufficient to meet the needs of patients.
Not having a sufficiently number of trained and dedicated employees makes it almost impossible for a nursing home to provide the kind of quality care that the residents deserve. If the home is understaffed and the staff that is available has to work beyond what should be expected of a normal employee, that can lead to the errors in medication and treatment that lower the overall scores for the facilities.
Abuse and neglect are the natural result of systematic problems within this system. The lack of staff, poorly trained and/or supervised staff, and overworked staff can all create an environment where care and treatment of the elderly becomes dangerous. At the Higgins Firm, we represent individuals and their families in Tennessee who have been the victim of nursing home abuse and neglect.