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Understaffing Nursing Homes

Nurse on the phone with elder man in the background

The thought of moving to a nursing home that is understaffed or otherwise unable to meet the needs of its residents can be scary for many. Many of the problems with nursing homes today are a result of understaffing, and that is the reason that many people want to avoid nursing homes if they can.

But just how often are nursing homes understaffed, and how does understaffing affect the lives of the elderly that are staying in these homes?

The Number of Understaffed Nursing Homes Is Shockingly High

According to Health Service Insights, 75% of nursing homes were understaffed between 2017 and 2018. Of course, the degree of understaffing in each case varies, along with the severity of the effects it had on the residents. Still, this is an outlandish and unacceptable number.

Just Because It’s Common, doesn’t Mean It’s Right

Though this statistic shows that understaffing in nursing homes seems to be the norm, that doesn’t mean that you have to tolerate it. There are forms of recourse you can take in the form of legal action, and we are here to help.

You deserve to live in dignity and comfort, and just because understaffing in nursing homes is widespread doesn’t mean that you should tolerate it.

Understaffing Effects Understaffing Has on Residents

When nursing homes are understaffed, the staff members who are there often have to work overtime, which can lead to burnout and poor performance in their job. In other words, when a nursing home is understaffed, the staff members who are there aren’t able to properly perform their jobs.

Working in a nursing home and taking care of the elderly is “an occupation associated with burnout amongst its workforce, associated with increases of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and decreases in personal accomplishment,” according to the Acta Biomedica.

When a nursing home is understaffed, it is not the fault of the employees who are there and are trying to help, but rather the nursing home itself is doing a disservice to those employees and the residents of their nursing home. 

Possible Effects of Understaffing for Residents of Nursing Homes

So when a nursing home doesn’t have adequate staff, and the staff that they do have are likely exhausted and overworked, it’s only intuitive that the quality of care that the elderly in these homes receive is going to suffer.

Understaffed nursing homes can result in caregivers missing medical events in their residents’ lives. They may have developed new symptoms and need their medication adjusted, for example. This is something a caregiver should keep an eye out for. In many nursing homes, there are simply not enough hours in the day for the nursing home staff member to attend to all of the needs of the patients in their care, and important standards of care are neglected.

The risk of the staff missing a sudden change in a patient’s condition, especially when the patients are elderly and often unable to do many basic tasks for themselves, is far too serious to tolerate.

Understaffing May Constitute Elder Abuse

Maryland Department of Aging defines elder abuse as “a single or repeated act of intentional or negligent behavior perpetrated by a caregiver, entity, family member, staff, or trusted individual, that causes harm to a vulnerable older adult.”

There are six subsections of elder abuse that are defined as well. The two most likely kinds in instances of understaffing are neglect and self-neglect. Neglect refers to when “the caregiver fails to meet or try to respond to the needs of an older adult.” Failure to feed, move, change the clothes of, or provide medical care to an elderly patient are all examples of neglect.

Self-neglect refers to when an elder is unable to care for themselves, which would likely be the case if there isn’t sufficient staff to take care of them. Many elders live in nursing homes because they are unable to properly take care of themselves, and if there isn’t sufficient staff, then many patients could wind up being victims of self-neglect.

Other Forms of Abuse Understaffing Could Cause

Though probably less likely than neglect and self-neglect, physical abuse could be a possible outcome of understaffing. Though this typically refers to physically striking patients, improper use of medication is also considered a form of physical abuse, and as stated previously, overworked staff are more likely to not notice changes in patients and make mistakes.

Even if inadvertent, if an elder was given improper medication as a result of understaffing, then that is a form of abuse that the nursing home is responsible for. In some cases, the very “needy” residents are given sedatives to put them to sleep, a form of physical abuse called chemical restraint, and understaffed nursing homes are particularly susceptible to this illegal practice.

Our Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyers Can Help

The nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys from Brown & Barron can take on your case while you tend to your loved one. We can pursue compensation through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.

You deserve to focus on your loved one right now, not hassle with the legal process. We can take care of your claim or lawsuit for you. Call us for a free consultation.

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