One underlying cause of elder neglect and abuse in nursing homes across the country is short staffing or understaffing. It is a critical issue that has plagued nursing homes and assisted living facilities for decades. While nursing homes may have perfect regulations in place to protect the helpless residents, facilities with few staff or untrained staff often violate these regulations.
Surveys show that about 90 percent of nursing homes in the country are understaffed. The residents of these facilities are at a higher risk of severe weight loss, malnutrition, bedsores, infections, pneumonia, dehydration, and other challenges.
Resident-to-staff ration is crucial
Most nursing homes are staffed on a ratio of staff-to-resident. Having the right number of residents being attended by the recommended number of staff members means the staff won’t be overwhelmed. Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t require a minimum resident-to-staff ratio. Some nursing homes continue to take more residents, while the number of staff members remains low.
According to a recent federal report, many nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have fewer staff members than they report.
Consequences of Understaffing in Nursing Homes
Generally, there are many negative issues linked to short staffing in nursing homes. These include;
Overtime and Exhaustion
If a nursing home doesn’t have the recommended number of staff members, the existing staff will be pushed to work quickly and for a long time. These workers view long working hours and overtime as beneficial. This is because they will make a lot of money.
The chances are that these nurses will overwork, even when they’re getting paid for the extra hours worked. The exhaustion will impact the nurse’s ability to effectively deliver the required services. They’re likely to make mistakes and probably miss critical changes in their patient’s condition.
Neglect of residents’ needs
Nursing home’s residents are dependent upon the nurses and caregivers for grooming, bathing, eating, and medications. Improper bathing or grooming means that the resident will develop bedsores and other infections. If some of the patients are incontinent of urine and stool and require the caregiver’s help to get to the bathroom, they will suffer more when neglected.
Understaffing leads to inconsistencies in medication administration and feeding. Fewer nurses taking care of a large number of patients in need of special care makes it hard to follow a routine schedule. This can result in malnutrition and other health issues associated with improper medication administration.
Short staffing in nursing homes is the leading cause of abuse of elderly residents. Overworking, stress, and lack of enough rest can make the nurses more irritable or abusive to the residents. These nurses don’t have enough to deliver standard care to each of the residents. This can result in impatience of the staff members, forcing them to use unnecessary force when helping the patients.
However, this doesn’t mean nurses should abuse and neglect nursing home residents. Actually, abuse and neglect are offenses punishable by the law. The moment you realize your loved one has been subjected to any form of neglect or abuse, report the matter to the relevant authorities.
Preventing short staffing in nursing facilities
The modern society can benefit from strict regulations and severe penalties for all understaffed nursing facilities. These facilities and individual nurses should be held liable for abuse, neglect, and all other issues associated with short staffing. But this is just a temporary solution.
Due to understaffing, some nursing facilities have had to pay millions of dollars to patients who suffered neglect, abuse, or wrongful death. It’s recommended to consult with an experienced nursing home abuse law firm if you firmly believe that your loved one was subjected to abuse and neglect while in a nursing facility.