Nursing Home Understaffing is a Dangerous Nationwide Epidemic

Nursing HomeNursing home residents often require a significant amount of medical care – but are they receiving it? The answer depends on what statistics are examined. The federal government recommends that nursing home residents receive an average of 45-minutes of direct, face-to-face care from nursing staff and doctors each day, but studies conducted by groups like PennLive suggest that in many parts of the country residents do not receive this level of care.

Hiding the Nature of Understaffing to the Detriment of Patients

Not only do reports like that from PennLive suggest that nursing homes across the country are understaffed, these reports also suggest that when audited nursing homes have a tendency to “shore up” their nursing staff numbers so as to make it look as if residents receive more care than they actually do. By examining the nursing staff levels reported by nursing homes and comparing those numbers against federal reimbursement claims for services rendered, PennLive’s report concluded that approximately three out of every ten nursing homes in California find ways to overreport nursing staff levels by at least 50 percent. (Louisiana had the worst rate – approximately nine out of every ten nursing homes in the state overreported nursing staffing levels by at least 50 percent).

When a nursing home is not adequately staffed with nurses, residents are placed at an increased risk of suffering preventable injuries and illnesses. For example:

  • It may take longer for a resident to see a doctor, as nurses are often the “gatekeepers” to the doctors in that evaluation and treatment by a nurse is often a prerequisite before the home’s doctor will be called into visit with the resident. Delays in treatment can lead to a worsening of the resident’s symptoms, a longer recovery time, and even death in some cases.
  • Resident abuse by other workers or residents may go unreported and undetected. When there are too few of nurses in a home, the nurses that do work for the home must spend less time with each resident. Nurses who are rushed are likely to miss signs that would suggest a resident is being physically abused or neglected by another member of the nursing home staff or by another resident. Only the most serious cases of abuse or neglect are likely to catch the attention of nursing home staff, giving unstable residents or nefarious workers greater opportunity to abuse vulnerable residents.
  • Residents may feel as if their time with the home’s nurses is “rushed” and may fail or neglect to report important information that can be helpful in enabling the nurse to provide adequate care for the resident. A resident with an ache or pain may feel the nurse is too busy to be bothered with such information, but such information may be crucial to timely diagnosing an illness or adverse reaction to medication.

When to Seek Help from a California Elder Abuse Lawyer

Unfortunately, it does not appear there are easy methods for determining a nursing home’s true nursing staffing levels. Before admitting a loved one to a nursing home facility, family members should randomly visit the facility on various days and at various times to get a picture of a facility’s true staffing levels.

If a loved one does suffer injury or illness and alleges that nurses do not check in on him or her for very long or on a regular basis, this can enable the resident (or his or her family on his or her behalf) to seek compensation to assist in repairing the harm suffered by the resident and moving him or her to a better facility. Case Barnett Law, your Orange County nursing home abuse injury lawyer, can help you accomplish this. Contact our office at (940) 861-2990, or use our firm’s online contact form, to reach out to us for assistance if you believe your loved one’s nursing home is understaffed and your loved one is being harmed thereby.

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