Increased Risk of Abuse or Neglect in Understaffed Nursing Homes

Federal data now confirms many things nursing home law attorneys have long known. For one, the majority of nursing homes have fewer care providers and nurses caring for their residents than what they report to government regulatory agencies. It is well-established that there is a higher risk that elderly and vulnerable residents will suffer neglect or abuse when a facility has fewer staffers.

A Drop in Quality of Care

Family members often suspect that staffing levels at their loved one’s nursing care facility are inadequate. However, they may not be given straightforward answers by the home. If there is evidence of insufficient staffing levels, it can go a long way toward proving negligence. Indeed, when a resident’s needs are significant, it will likely take sufficient time to meet those needs adequately. When staffers are stretched thin by lack of support, adequate day-to-day care can fall by the wayside. This drop in quality care can lead to substantial injuries and illnesses. 

Statistics show that shortfalls are the worst on weekends. When staffing is at its worst, on-duty personnel had nearly twice as many residents under their care as they would when staffing rosters were full. However, Medicare doesn’t establish a minimum ratio of staff-to-patients in nursing home facilities. Medicare does mandate that patients must receive at least eight hours of daily nursing care, and a licensed nurse must be on staff at all times. 

When Reporting of Staffing Numbers is Unreliable

Evidence exists that shows nursing home administrators may have been falsely reporting their staffing numbers to the federal government. Instead of taking their word for it, the new analysis examines payroll data. Payroll data seems to be significantly more accurate in measuring the number of staffers on duty in a given shift. 

This information reveals many elder care facilities were likely exaggerating how many individuals were working during an average shift. Additionally, they rarely reported fluctuations or drops in staffing, even when payroll records clearly indicate they had a worker shortage. Although the new data provides a better picture of the scope of the issue, it doesn’t do much to change the day-to-day staffing inadequacies.

Anytime nursing homes don’t staff their facilities sufficiently, seemingly simple—but critical—tasks typically aren’t accomplished. That includes things like repositioning immobile patients to avoid bedsores. Also often neglected are dental issues and repercussions from falls. These issues usually result in avoidable hospitalizations and sometimes severe injury, illness, and death.

Some nursing home administrators may contend that weekends don’t need to be staffed as heavily since there are fewer activities and likely more family members present. However, no matter how many staffers are on a nursing home’s schedules each day, residents still need the same care. They still need to bathe, get dressed, brush their teeth, eat, use the toilet, and take their medicine every single day. 

Get Legal Help

If you’re concerned that you or a loved one is suffering neglect or abuse due to a nursing facility’s failings, you would be well-advised to contact a nursing home law attorney, like a Nursing Abuse Lawyer Philadelphia PA from Wieand Law Firm. An attorney can fight for your rights and best interests. Contact a legal professional with a focus on nursing home law for more information or to discuss your situation. 

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