Understaffing

Understaffing in the Nursing Home

One of the major contributing factors to nursing home neglect stems from understaffing of the nursing home facility. Understaffing of the nursing facility can indirectly cause nursing home abuse because overwhelmed and underpaid nursing home staff members and caregivers are more likely to be abusive to a nursing home resident.

Understaffing of the nursing home is a dangerous phenomenon for both residents and staff members and is now considered to be a crime.

Causes Of Understaffing A Nursing Home

There may be intentional reasons why the owners or management of a nursing facility will understaff their facility. The cost of labor is one of the reasons why owners intentionally understaff their nursing home.  Management may skew the numbers in favor of high resident to staff member ratios.

In certain situations, nursing facilities may be having problems finding or hanging onto enough adequately trained nurses and certified nursing assistants who provide all of the care to the nursing home residents. A high turnover rate can result in the over-scheduling of available staff members and cause them to become overwhelmed by their duties.

The Problem Of Overtime at a Nursing Facility

Overtime is an extremely common phenomenon among nursing facility staff and can contribute to added stress levels on the part of the remaining staff members who are working longer and longer hours. Overtime is considered to be a benefit by many staff members and nurses, as this will increase their wages when they work overtime hours.

Overtime can also show that a staff member is loyal to the nursing home and may garner respect from the administrators. However, this can contribute to a dynamic where the staff members feel like they have to work an unreasonable number of hours to gain respect. This results in a suffering of patient care.

Consequences of Nursing Home Understaffing

There are many negative consequences of understaffing at the nursing home and this can affect the attendance to the nursing home residents’ needs. Staff members may suffer from excessive stress and this will increase the chances of nursing home abuse and neglect. Abuse and neglect become a bigger problem as the resident to staff member ratio increases out of control.

This neglect and abuse on the part of the nursing home staff can cause psychological problems, physical illnesses and even death among the nursing home residents. Understaffing of a nursing facility may add to psychological problems and physical illnesses among the staff members as they experience increased stress.

Consequences of Immobile Patients

There are many residents living in a nursing facility that suffer from limited ability to ambulate on their own. They are dependent on their caregivers for all of their movement needs, and often also many of their physiological needs.

When the nursing home is understaffed, it can be impossible for staff members to turn the patients in bed enough times or to move the residents as often as they need to be moved in order to prevent muscle atrophy and bed sores. This can lead to skin conditions or infections.

The Neglect of Resident Needs

The residents are dependent upon the caregivers for their bathing, eating, grooming and medications. If the resident is not groomed or bathed on a regular basis, they can develop sores and infections, especially if the patient is incontinent of stool and urine and needs help getting to the bathroom.

Nurses who are understaffed may have problems feeding and giving medications to all of the residents on a routine schedule. This can lead to malnutrition, deficiencies in nutrition and other complications arising out of not getting their medications on schedule.

The Abuse of Residents

Understaffing at the nursing home can also lead to the neglect and abuse of the residents. Abusive nurses indicate that they have stress from issues related to understaffing and they list this as the primary cause of their being abusive to residents.

Having limited time to care for each resident can result in the impatience of staff members who may use unnecessary force when helping their residents with their needs.

The Prevalence of Nursing Home Understaffing

Research indicates that as many as 95 percent of nursing facilities in the US are understaffed. States differ in their definition of what constitutes adequate staffing levels for nursing homes.

For example, the state of Florida mandates that there be at least one licensed nurse for every 40 residents. Each resident needs to have at least 3.6 hours of direct patient care each day. This information is available for every state.

Preventing Understaffing at Nursing Homes

The understaffing of nursing facilities is a problem in society that could benefit from stricter laws and penalties for understaffing the nursing home.

Many nursing homes have been held accountable for issues related to understaffing in recent years through having to pay fines related to lawsuits. While this may temporarily help the problem, there is much work to be done to help control the problem.

Because of understaffing, nursing homes have had to pay out millions of dollars to patients that have suffered from a wrongful death and illnesses related to understaffing of the nursing home.

If you feel that your loved one is a victim of understaffing, you may need to talk to an attorney to see if anything can be done to rectify the problem.

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Dr. Christine Traxler

Christine Traxler, MD is a retired family practice physician, graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in 1986, and freelance writer, having worked with patients in rural Minnesota for two decades. She has written several books on medical topics and currently resides in Minneapolis, MN, where she works as a freelance writer on medical topics.

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