Understaffed Nursing Homes: Is Your Loved One at Risk of Abuse or Neglect?

Moving a parent, grandparent or other loved one into a nursing home is one of the most difficult decisions anyone ever makes. We are comforted by the knowledge that the nursing home will take care of our loved one and protect him or her from harm.

Sadly, nursing homes often betray that trust and subject residents to harm caused by neglect or abuse. The potential for nursing home abuse and neglect gets worse when the facility has inadequate staff.

Many nursing homes face staffing problems, which can put an already vulnerable population at risk for abuse and neglect at a time in their lives when they need quality care the most.

Consider these facts:

  • An American Health Care Association (AHCA) survey of nursing facility staff found that nursing homes have high levels of turnover and relatively low retention rates for staff, especially nursing care staff.
  • In South Carolina, the retention rate for nursing care staff was 54.7 percent, with a 30 percent turnover rate, according to the AHCA survey, meaning almost half of nursing staff left their jobs, and at any time, nearly a third of nursing staff is new to the job.
  • The AHCA survey also found that an estimated 65,700 nursing positions needed to be filled at nursing homes across the country.
  • A 2014 study from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found that 22 percent of Medicare patients experience adverse events during stays at skilled nursing facilities.
  • An additional 11 percent of Medicare patients in the HHS study experienced temporary harm events.
  • In the HHS study, physician reviewers said 59 percent of the temporary harm or adverse events were clearly or likely preventable. They attributed the harm to substandard treatment, inadequate resident monitoring, and failure or delay of necessary care.
  • The American Nurses Association says shortages cause nurses to work long hours under stressful conditions, which can lead to fatigue and job dissatisfaction. These conditions can make nurses more prone to make medical mistakes, making patient quality suffer.

There is clearly a link between understaffed nursing homes and care issues. When nursing staff have too many patients, they get burned out and the quality of care can suffer. Not having enough staff can lead to unqualified people being hired by long-term care facilities, which increases the chance of resident abuse. It is a vicious cycle.

Staffing issues can lead to neglect and abuse, such as:

  • Failure to provide proper nutrition and hydration, which can lead to health issues, especially if patients can’t get food or water for themselves.
  • Failure to administer the proper medicines and in the correct dosage.
  • Neglect of patient hygiene, which can cause patients to be left in soiled bedclothes and lead to infection.
  • Failure to keep patients moving enough, allowing them to develop severe bedsores or pressure ulcers.
  • Not monitoring patients, which can lead to falls and other accidents.
  • Physical, sexual or emotional abuse by staffers who lack proper credentials

Your loved one should not suffer because of inadequate staffing. Being understaffed is no excuse for nursing home abuse and neglect. Nursing homes should be held responsible for any injuries suffered because of understaffing.

If your loved one has suffered from any kind of abuse or neglect at a nursing home, it is important to contact a qualified lawyer to help protect them and recover the compensation they deserve.

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