According to a report retrieved by Boston 25 News, first responders were called to AdviniaCare Eastpointe, a nursing home located in Chelsea, Massachusetts. A guest at the facility reported that a resident was not being administered their critical medication. When first responders arrived, they found a number of residents roaming the halls and lining up to receive medical care, yet no nursing home staff were present.
The National Issue of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
This shocking story is unfortunately not uncommon in nursing homes across the country. In fact, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports roughly 95% of nursing home residents have been neglected or have witnessed nursing home neglect.
Neglect can be just as harmful as other types of abuse, leading to unnecessary hospital visits and even death.
The many types of neglect in nursing homes include:
- Malnutrition and dehydration
- Medical negligence (such as not receiving critical medications and treatments in a timely manner)
- Neglect of personal hygiene (possibly leading to bed sores)
While there are several possible causes of abuse and neglect, understaffing is one of the leading causes. Research indicates that as many as 95% of nursing facilities in the U.S. are understaffed.
Why is understaffing so prevalent? Poor management of long-term care facilities often prioritizes profit over care. Nursing home administrators may attempt to reduce expenses by cutting down on staffing — saving them the cost of labor but putting residents at increased risk.
Without proper staffing, nurses on duty are forced into working long hours, leading to employee burnout and high turnover. Additionally, nursing home staff members are more likely to make life-threatening mistakes due to fatigue caused by working extended shifts.
Crisis of Understaffing in Nursing Homes on the Horizon
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated staffing shortages in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Staff burnout seemed to hit an all-time high, while nurses adapted their care through several variants. As burnout increased, many caregivers left the industry entirely, causing nurse-to-patient ratios to skyrocket.
While the pandemic seems to be easing, staff shortages are not. According to a report developed by Boston Indicators, care work continues to be undervalued with poor wages and working conditions. Additionally, the report details an increasing demand for caregivers as the elderly population grows, estimating retirees in the Boston area to increase by more than 50% in the next 20 years.
An even greater crisis could be on the horizon if nursing homes do not shift their focus from profits to improving the quality of care. To protect this vulnerable population, it is critical that facilities quickly address working conditions, wages, and benefits for nursing home staff. Other programs — including adequate training, mentorship possibilities, and career growth opportunities — could also significantly improve job satisfaction.
Addressing Staffing Shortages in Nursing Homes
This national issue is not hopeless. There are steps to take to address the growing crisis of nursing home abuse and neglect caused by understaffing.
If a family member or loved one is a resident at a nursing home, be vigilant to the warning signs of abuse and neglect. Speak up or notify people if you believe a nursing home is not adequately staffed. The National Guard has been called in to support various facilities during times of staffing crises.
Since nursing home abuse often goes unnoticed and unreported, long-term care facilities are frequently not held accountable. The most important action you can take is to report any instances of abuse as soon as possible and to take legal action when appropriate.