The dangers of understaffed nursing homes

by Hessig & Pohl | Apr 30, 2019 | 

The number of staff in a nursing home or rehabilitation facility actually can be a possible indicator of neglect of the residents of that facility. Most people assume that nursing home facilities would want to have an adequate amount of staff in order to care and support their residents. But despite Federal law mandating that nursing homes have the proper number of staff, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reports that up to 90 percent of nursing homes in the United States are understaffed. There could be many reasons for this — profit seeking by the owners of the nursing homes, or merely that they cannot find enough qualified people that want to work in this industry.

The problem with understaffing at nursing home facilities is that it places the residents of those facilities in danger. The main danger with understaffed nursing homes is neglect. If not enough people are working a shift they cannot perform all of the tasks that are necessary for the care and comfort of the residents of that facility.

Recommended standards

The Department of Health and Human Services has established certain standards with regard to how much time a resident of a nursing home should spend with a certified nurse practitioner and a registered nurse each day. The DHHS recommends that nursing homes provide residents a minimum of two hours each day with a certified nurse practitioner and 12 minutes a day with a registered nurse. However, DHHS found that most nursing homes fall far below these standards.

Nursing homes that receive payments from Medicare and/or Medicaid are bound by law to strict standards set by the Federal government. These standards dictate how nursing homes and long term care facilities should operate, including the amount of staff that is required given the number of residents and patients. One standard is that the residents must have 24 hour access to a registered nurse at all times. Other requirements for each facility include the following:

  • A minimum weekly average of 3.6 hours of direct care per resident per day, provided by a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or licensed nursing staff;
  • A minimum of 2.5 hours of direct care per resident per day by a CNA;
  • A minimum of one CNA per every 20 residents;
  • A minimum licensed nursing staffing of one hour of direct care per resident per day; and
  • At least one licensed nurse per 40 residents.

The dangers associated with understaffing

An understaffed nursing facility creates the risk of serious harm to its residents due to neglect. The risk of harm increases as the number of available staff decreases and residents get less time from staff to meet their daily needs. Here are some of the problems that can come from this neglect:

  • Malnutrition or dehydration: Some nursing home residents may need the assistance of a caregiver to eat and drink. Understaffing can result in residents not being provided the assistance they need to ensure their nutritional needs are met.
  • Immobility-related harm: Nursing home residents may be physically incapable of moving on their own. If their facility is understaffed, these residents may develop bedsores, muscle atrophy or skin infections that are caused by long periods of immobility.
  • Falls: Residents may try to do more for themselves when aides are not available to help them. This may result in residents suffering more falls that could cause life-threatening injuries.
  • Poor hygiene: Understaffing may cause residents to suffer from poor hygiene caused by not being bathed or groomed on a regular basis or not changing soiled clothing or bed sheets. This can result in serious infections that jeopardize residents’ health.
  • Medication errors: Understaffing can result in untrained staff members giving the wrong type or dosage of medication to residents.

If your loved one has suffered from some form of abuse while under the care of a nursing home, get the justice your family deserves – our nursing home abuse attorneys can help you hold negligent nursing home facilities accountable for the pain and suffering they have caused.

Schedule a free, no obligation consultation today to review your claim and discuss your legal options. No upfront payment is required and you only pay us if we recover compensation for you. Please contact us here or at (502) 777-1111.

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