Staff shortages in nursing homes continue to wreak havoc on facilities across the country. With the COVID-19 pandemic producing new waves of variants, the already battered industry has hit crisis levels. Staff shortages cause employee burnout, which is a significant factor in nursing home abuse and neglect. Now more than ever, it is urgent to pay close attention to the care nursing home residents are receiving.
Why Staff Shortages in Nursing Homes Are Worsening
Nursing homes have been chronically understaffed since the COVID-19 pandemic began and are now reaching unprecedented levels. Just when it seemed things couldn’t get worse, the recent omicron wave pummeled the already hard-hit industry.
The staffing crisis has left many nursing homes without even the bare minimum number of employees needed to care for their current residents. According to an alarming article from National Public Radio (NPR), some facilities have just one certified nursing assistant (CNA) providing care for 50 residents.
In addition to creating record levels of staff burnout, the staff shortages in nursing homes also gravely impacts the level of care residents receive.
“We are certainly seeing a huge increase in the number of calls from residents who are saying that they are not being changed, they’re not receiving their meals on time. That happens when you don’t have enough staff.”
— Laurie Brewer, New Jersey Long-Term Care Ombudsman
Until the crisis is resolved, many nursing home residents will suffer. Tragically, some residents may even become victims of nursing home abuse or neglect.
According to a study published by the National Institutes for Health (NIH), 85% of nurses believe staff shortages in nursing homes are the leading cause of abuse and neglect.
Sadly, the study was conducted before the pandemic hit and the situation has likely gotten worse since then.
Thankfully, things are not dire in all nursing homes. Read more about the staffing crisis and what to look out for to keep your loved one safe.
If you think an older person you love is already suffering from abuse or neglect, do not delay. Talk to our team for a free and confidential case review.
Factors Affecting Staff Shortages in Nursing Homes
The recent staff shortage in nursing homes results from a perfect storm scenario created by two factors: ever-emerging COVID-19 variants and widespread staff burnout.
COVID-19 Omicron Variant
While not as deadly, the COVID-19 omicron variant is far more contagious than previous strains. This has taken a tremendous toll on nursing homes that were already struggling.
Because nursing home residents are often frail, staff members must be extra cautious not to bring any illnesses to work with them. This is compounded by an industry-wide reluctance to get vaccines and boosters, increasing infection rates.
The combination of these factors has caused staggering numbers of COVID-19 cases. In the first week of January 2022, there were 67,000 new cases among nursing home staff.
What’s worse, the pandemic isn’t over and there’s still a risk that new, more transmissible variants could pop up, such as the omicron BA.2 subvariant.
Nursing Home Staff Burnout
Employee burnout is an understandable result of staff shortages in nursing homes. Understaffing puts more stress on the current workers, who won’t have extra help to do their jobs.
“If you have too many people to care for, you’re going to feel moral distress, like ‘I’m not doing my best.’ ‘I can’t do the best job I’ve been trained to do, that I want to do.’ ‘I’m not meeting the needs of those that I’m supposed to be caring for.’ That is really devastating personally, just day after day.”
— Susan Reinhard, executive director of the AARP’s Public Policy Institute
According to NPR, these stressful working conditions are fueling more burnout. This is causing nursing home employees to quit in unheard-of numbers, with over 420,000 nursing home jobs abandoned since the pandemic began.
In addition to burnout, another factor driving employees to leave is they are often paid low wages while being expected to work long hours.
These undesirable working conditions may cause employees to take their frustrations out on residents through violence. They may also make mistakes that put residents at extremely high risk for harm or even wrongful death.
What Can Be Done to Combat Staff Shortages in Nursing Homes?
There are steps nursing facilities, loved ones, and even concerned citizens can take to keep residents safe despite staff shortages in nursing homes.
Speak up if you believe your loved one’s nursing home is inadequately staffed. It may be possible for the facility to request aid from outside organizations or temporary workers to fill gaps in care.
In fact, some facilities across the country have already started to receive outside help. For example, the National Guard has been called in to work in New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin nursing homes.
Vaccinations remain the best way to protect against getting and spreading COVID-19. You can do your part by asking nursing home administrators how many of their employees are vaccinated. You can also suggest they create incentives that encourage nursing home staff to get vaccinated if there are not already such programs in place.
Check Up on Loved Ones
If a facility is understaffed, its residents are at a higher risk of nursing home neglect or abuse. Because of this sad reality, it’s more important than ever to check up on your loved ones as often as possible.
Doing so will allow you to catch neglect or abuse — hopefully before it becomes a big problem. From there, you can take action to ensure your loved one gets the care they need.
Navigating the COVID-19 Nursing Home Staff Shortage
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, and the challenges it has unleashed onto nursing homes continue to plague facilities.
Until the staffing crisis stabilizes, nursing homes will continue to face problems. Therefore, it’s key to keep a close watch on your loved one to make sure they’re as healthy and happy as possible.
If you notice any signs of nursing home abuse or neglect, take action without delay.
Our team can help you pursue justice and compensation if your loved one was harmed. Get a free case review now.