Understaffing is one of the leading causes of nursing home injuries. When nursing homes are understaffed, the people who work there, many of whom are overworked and underpaid, are unable to provide adequate care and are more likely to become abusive toward nursing home residents. Some nursing homes are understaffed intentionally, in an effort to increase profits by reducing labor costs. Others are understaffed because of difficulties finding appropriately trained staff members, or because staff members leave because of poor working conditions. Unfortunately, when nursing homes are understaffed, whether intentionally or due difficulties finding appropriately trained staff, it is the nursing home residents and their families who suffer.
Nursing Home Understaffing Leads to Poor Quality Care and Potentially Life-Threatening Medical Conditions
Many nursing home residents are almost entirely dependent on staff members for bathing, eating, grooming, and to ensure that they receive and take medications. When the nursing home is understaffed, patients may not receive medications on time, may not eat regularly, and may not be bathed and groomed as appropriate. These situations can lead to malnutrition and other health consequences that can cause a resident’s condition to deteriorate even further.
According to a 2015 article on cleveland.com, 70% of Ohio nursing homes are understaffed. These low staffing levels expose nursing home residents to an increased risk of falls, increased likelihood of developing bedsores and urinary tract infections, and an inability to provide timely care in the event of an emergency.
A common problem that occurs when nursing homes are understaffed relates to incontinence issues. When a resident calls for help to go to the bathroom and the call is not answered, the resident may attempt to go on their own. If the resident is unassisted and falls, they could suffer serious injuries, like broken bones. Other times, a resident may be labeled as incontinent and asked to use unnecessary incontinence products which increase the risk for bedsores, infections, and unnecessary hospitalizations.
Bedridden patients, who are required to be repositioned every two hours, may develop muscle atrophy, bedsores (also known as decubitus ulcers), and other infections.
In addition to poor patient care, understaffing places additional stress on the staff that is there. Nursing home staff members who are asked to work long hours are more likely to lose their patience with nursing home residents, which can lead to an increased likelihood of abuse or neglect.
Understaffing Places Profits Over People
Some nursing homes are understaffed because they have difficulty finding employees who are properly trained and want to work in a nursing home setting. Other nursing homes are intentionally understaffed in an effort to increase profits by reducing labor costs. Regardless of the cause, when nursing homes are understaffed the remaining staff members are often asked to work long hours, which can lead to errors caused by fatigue, and resentment towards management and the residents they are there to care for. Staff members who are overworked and experiencing feelings of resentment are more likely to neglect or abuse nursing home residents.
Other times, nursing home staff may feel required to work overtime to show that they are dedicated to their work and to gain respect from management. This, too, can lead to feelings of resentment toward nursing home management and residents, which can result in a decline in the quality of patient care.
How You Can Prevent Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse
There are simple things you can do to reduce the likelihood that someone you care about will be a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect. Visit your loved one on different days of the week, and at different times. Visit during meal times, on weekends and holidays when staffing levels are often at their lowest, and when activities are planned. This makes it difficult for nursing home staff to predict when you will visit, and gives you a full picture of what goes on at the nursing home. It keeps the facility on its toes, and can help avoid a situation where the nursing home staff takes special care with your loved one if they know you are coming.
Get to know the staff members who care for your loved one, as well administrative and supervisory personnel. These people can be valuable resources to answer questions and promote quality care in the facility.
Know the policies and procedures you need to follow when you do have questions, problems, or concerns, and communicate before a minor concern becomes a major problem. It is also wise to communicate frequently and openly, rather than waiting until you have a number of concerns or major problems.
Be involved in care plan meetings. These meetings are conducted when a resident arrives at a nursing home facility, and must be updated any time there is a major change to the resident’s physical, mental, behavioral, or social needs. The care plan should be personalized to your loved one, and is an opportunity for you to voice concerns, make suggestions, and agree on a plan.
What to Do If Someone You Love Was Injured as a Result of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
No matter how good a nursing home facility may seem, you should always be on the lookout for signs of abuse or neglect. Signs of nursing home abuse or neglect may include unexplained scratches or bruises, drowsiness caused by overmedication, poor personal hygiene, or a dramatic, unexplained change in behavior. Be particularly attentive if your loved one’s behavior changes in the presence of a particular staff member.
Ohio lawyer Tom Robenalt has been fighting for victims of nursing home abuse and neglect for more than 25 years. If someone you care about was a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, Tom will investigate your case, and has the experience, resources, and expertise to hold nursing homes accountable. Contact Robenalt Law today to schedule a free consultation by calling 216-233-7573, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or completing our online form.
Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing nursing homes at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 25 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured by negligent health care providers.
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