Nursing homes are so understaffed, that residents, family members, and even staff members are dialing 911 for help. It has long been known that higher staffing levels at nursing homes translate to better outcomes and quality of life for residents. However, the federal regulations for staffing at nursing homes is a low standard, made worse by corporate greed and toothless government enforcement. The largely for-profit nursing home industry has successfully lobbied for low staffing requirements, fewer unannounced inspections, and smaller fines for violations. The result is sickness, death, and misery for nursing home residents.
Safer Staffing Levels Require New Legislation & Enforcement
If you ask any expert on long-term care what can be done to improve nursing homes, the overwhelming response is increasing the ratio of care staff to residents. There are vague federal standards that require “an appropriate” level of staffing, and some states have more strict guidelines. These staffing levels are theoretically enforced by regular government inspections, but according to an investigation by USA Today less than 4% of violating nursing homes were cited by government inspectors, and few of these nursing homes were fined.
Why Staffing Levels Matter
Nursing home residents are a combination of elderly people who need help with daily tasks, those who need attention for acute medical needs, and other shorter-term patients with rehab and recovery. To no surprise, the homes with fewer nurses provide worse care. While families now have more access to information about nursing home staff levels, they are still constricted by location, availability, and other factors that may bar them from placing loved ones in higher-rated facilities.
Since the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) released a 2001 study laying out recommendations for staff levels at nursing homes, the industry has known what it takes to provide adequate care. The paper showed the importance of having a minimum of 4.1 nursing hours per resident every 24 hours, with at least .75 of those hours provided by a registered nurse (RN). Further research has suggested residents should receive 4.55 hours of nursing care every day, with an RN available 24/7 and 30% of care provided by RNs and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs).
Nursing Home Staffing Deficiencies Are Everywhere
Despite this widespread knowledge, 3 out of 4 nursing homes do not meet minimum staffing standards, to the detriment of their patients. The state of Maryland only requires nursing homes to provide residents with 3.0 hours of care each day. Other states do not even have requirements, allowing nursing homes to decide their own staffing needs—even when this means patient care is no longer the top priority.
Many for-profit nursing homes skimp out on staffing so they can benefit shareholders. As nursing home staff levels are the highest indicator of the quality of care that residents will receive, these facilities are likely to have lower ratings and more safety violations. Everything from pressure ulcers, restraint use, and dehydration to infection rates, can be decreased by higher RN-to-patient ratios.
Insufficient Staff at Nursing Homes Leads to Injury & Death
The devastating and deadly impact of COVID-19, especially at nursing homes, is still fresh on the mind of people around the world, but deadly infections are not new to nursing homes. There was plenty of warning that we might find ourselves in this situation. Nursing home owners that made the choice to understaff their facilities should be held accountable for the way their decisions have affected thousands of families nationwide.
Brown & Barron continues to fight for the victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. If insufficient care resulted in your loved one suffering from a preventable injury illness or death, we can help you determine whether you may be able to file a claim. Until our government steps up to make nursing homes provide the level of care patients deserve and families expect, we’ll continue to fight for those who suffer.
Call Brown & Barron today at 410-346-0206 or contact us online schedule a free consultation with our experienced nursing home abuse attorneys.