Nursing home abuse

Nursing Home Understaffing

December 12, 2022 by Carrie Capouellez
Nursing Home Neglect

When our loved ones move into nursing homes or long-term care facilities, it is because they need assistance living their lives. Therefore, families should be able to trust that their loved ones will be checked on routinely. Unfortunately for many, not all care facilities are created equal and not all staff members do their jobs.

It takes a lot of time to care for someone, particularly the elderly. While nursing homes are staffed with dozens of nurses and nursing assistants to care for their residents, the reality is many nursing homes are grossly understaffed. Without the proper number of nurses and assistants to care for nursing home residents, our elderly loved ones suffer from nursing home neglect.

There is no shortage of qualified individuals to work in nursing homes, but many nursing home companies simply don’t want to pay for more staff. Although labor costs are a cost of doing business, many nursing home facilities choose to provide a lower quality of care by employing fewer staff and pocketing the difference.

Why Are Nursing Homes Understaffed?

Understaffing has plagued nursing homes for years, with more than 94% of nursing homes currently understaffed according to the American Health Care Association (ACHA). There are a variety of reasons why nursing home staffing issues arise, but some of the most common reasons include:

  • Labor costs are high for credentialed, trained staff like registered nurses
  • Facilities struggle to retain qualified professionals due to the stressful work conditions which lead to high turnover
  • It can be hard to find qualified staff in rural areas and other geographic locations
  • Constant overtime leading to stress and pressure
  • The COVID-19 pandemic caused treating provider deaths and burn out
  • Corporate structures, including the funding of nursing homes by private equity companies, contributes to understaffing and increases hospitalizations among residents

The Dangers of Understaffing

Many nursing home residents require assistance for every aspect of their daily lives. Everything from moving and going to the bathroom to grooming and eating could require the help of a skilled professional. When there are not enough nurses and assistants to go around, patients are at risk for serious injuries. In fact, understaffing is a leading cause of resident accidents and injuries.

Things like administering medications, providing assistance to use the bathroom, and administering care in the event of a medical emergency cannot be adequately provided when facilities are understaffed. Understaffing causes some of the most common nursing home injuries, like bedsores, broken bones, dehydration, infections, malnutrition and dehydration, and weight loss.

Pennsylvania has regulations dictating how many nursing home staff members should be available based on the number of facility residents. All nursing homes that accept Medicare must abide by these regulations or face serious fines. Unfortunately, some nursing home facilities blatantly ignore the law, and when a resident suffers, that resident and their loved ones deserve justice.

Staffing Shortages Put Nursing Home Resident Health at Risk

In America, close to 1.4 million people are cared for in skilled nursing facilities; and, when these facilities are short-staffed, nurses and aides scramble to perform crucial tasks like delivering meals, helping bedbound residents use the bathroom, and answering calls for medication. Vital medical tasks can be overlooked when workers are overworked, sometimes even leading to avoidable injuries and hospitalizations. Federal data has revealed most nursing homes have fewer nurses and caretaking staff than they report to the government, reinforcing the long-held worry of many families that staffing levels are inadequate.

And apparently this is only going to get worse. Experts predict that the number of adults 65 and older requiring long-term care could rise by more than 70 percent over the next 25 years; and, the supply of paid caregivers will fall far short of demand. Abuse and neglect become a bigger problem as resident-to-staff member ratios increase; therefore, the situation is a train wreck waiting to happen.

How To Identify Understaffing in Nursing Homes

Understaffing in nursing homes can be hard to detect. Making matters even more complicated, state agencies do not always enforce staffing standards, so facilities get away with understaffing. Despite numerous federal and state measures designed to regulate nursing home staffing, these rules and regulations can be difficult to enforce. Recognizing nursing home understaffing can be hard, but the loved ones of residents should look out for the following signs:

  • Less staff scheduled to work on weekends and holidays than on weekdays
  • Injuries and infections not being timely addressed and/or not being reported or documented at all
  • Nightshift understaffing creating substandard conditions
  • Resident calls, alarms, and other indicators of a need for assistance take a long time to be responded to
  • Residents are left alone in their rooms for extended periods of time without a staff member checking in on them
  • Staff members are stressed, tired, and exhausted

Lawyers For Nursing Home Negligence Lawsuits

Inadequate numbers of certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, dietary staff, therapists, and more medical professionals in nursing home and long-term care facilities is a huge nationwide problem. This understaffing leads to residents being injured in falls, suffering from pressure ulcers, and suffering the effects of delayed diagnosis, among other illnesses and injuries.

Our elders deserve to be treated with respect. If you believe a loved one is suffering neglect in a Philadelphia nursing home, the medical malpractice lawyers of Lopez McHugh LLP can help. We are dedicated to representing nursing home neglect victims and their families. If you believe that your loved one has been injured due to nursing home understaffing, contact us today for a free consultation to put a stop to the neglect and get justice for your loved one.

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