Can nursing home understaffing be a form of neglect and abuse?

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Understaffing is an issue that affects the vast majority of nursing homes, with some studies indicating as many as 90% of facilities lacking the staff necessary to ensure resident safety. If your loved one has suffered injuries due to understaffing, you may be to take legal action by filing a claim for nursing home abuse. Nursing home abuse due to understaffing

Issues Contributing to Understaffing

A number of issues can contribute to a nursing home failing to have the necessary number of staff employees on duty. For example:

  • High staff turnover due to the stress of the work environment
  • Employees being unable to work due to the flu or other contagious illnesses
  • Scheduling conflicts such as parents of young children not wanting to work weekends or holidays
  • Inability to replace staff members who quit due to low pay or a tight local job market
  • A deliberate effort by management to keep costs down by having minimal staff on duty

How Poor Staffing Leads to Nursing Home Neglect

Poor staffing can lead to a number of issues that might be considered neglect. For example:

  • Abrasions
  • Bed sores
  • Bruises
  • Broken bones
  • Chronic infections
  • Choking
  • Falls
  • Poor hygiene
  • Resident-on-resident abuse
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • UTI

Understaffing affects all residents, but those who are confined to a wheelchair or suffering severe cognitive impairment are most at risk. When staff members are forced to care for a large number of residents in a short time period, those who have the highest needs are inevitably shortchanged.

How Understaffing Creates a Toxic Environment

Employees who are forced to work in a facility that is chronically understaffed are likely to become frustrated with their jobs. They may realize that residents need more care, but they feel powerless to provide the necessary assistance due to a simple lack of time.

If they are forced to work overtime to compensate for short staffing, they may suffer from chronic fatigue. This can lead to mistakes due to inattentiveness or oversights as staff members rush through tasks in an effort to finish their work as soon as possible.

Identifying Nursing Home Understaffing

Many different people work in a nursing home, but understaffing is most problematic when it involves positions that directly provide resident care. These include:

  • Registered Nurses (RNs)
  • Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs)
  • Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs)
  • Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs)
  • Physical Therapists (PTs)

The law only requires that a nursing home have different staff to provide proper resident care. There is no requirement to have a specific staff/resident ratio. To determine if a nursing home is understaffed, you will want to look for the following:

  • Are staff members constantly rushing through their tasks?
  • Do staff members seem tired or distracted when you attempt to ask questions about your loved one's care?
  • Does your loved one mention being unable to obtain assistance for essential tasks such as going to the restroom or showering?
  • Does the facility seem to have an unusually high number of new employees?

If You Think Your Loved One Is a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse

The first step whenever you have concerns about the care your loved one is receiving is to report the issue to the facility administrator. The nursing home office is required to investigate your complaint and file a report to the state authorities.

If the issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, contact adult protective services or the office of aging in your area, and call an attorney to initiate a nursing home neglect or abuse claim.

A nursing home neglect or abuse claim is a civil proceeding that includes compensation for medical treatment and pain and suffering. If your loved one receives Medicaid or Medicare benefits to cover the cost of nursing home care, however, these programs will have a lien on a percentage of any funds recovered in the claim.

The experienced attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault can help you obtain justice for a loved one who has suffered injuries due to nursing home understaffing. To learn more, please contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 for a free consultation.

 

William S. Neblett
Attorney William Neblett practices personal injury, maritme, medical malpractice and nursing home abuse law.