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How Staffing Shortages Endanger Nursing Home Residents

Staffing has long been a concern for nursing homes across the U.S. Both the number and quality of workers in nursing homes dictate the quality of care that residents receive. In the wake of COVID-19, an already struggling industry has been overwhelmed, and residents are now forced to deal with even greater risks of abuse, neglect, and inadequate care.

Before we look at why nursing home staffing shortages present a threat to nursing home residents, let’s first review a brief history of the industry’s staffing problems before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How an Existing Staffing Shortage Problem Has Become Even Worse

In 2002, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found that up to 90% of nursing homes in the U.S. faced staffing shortages. Only minimal progress was made since that HHS study, and a pre-COVID 2020 Reuters analysis of survey data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that things weren’t much better at the beginning of the year.

The Reuters analysis found that approximately 70% of U.S. nursing homes would fail to meet staffing standards advocated by many nursing home safety experts.

The coronavirus greatly worsened these problems. The Wall Street Journal found that some nursing homes experienced a 25% drop in nurse-staffing levels during COVID-19 compared to similar periods in 2019.

These shortages, combined with several other challenges facing the nursing home industry, have been disastrous for residents. An ABC News’ analysis of state-released data showed that, through late October, “coronavirus deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities have now topped 82,000 in the 41 states for which figures were available.”

Problems Caused by Nursing Home Staffing Shortages

With fewer staff members available to attend to residents’ needs, problems such as inadequate care, abuse, and neglect all become more likely. Residents receive less time with staff, so any health conditions they’re experiencing could receive less attention than they deserve. Residents also receive less supervision from staff, which makes resident-on-resident abuse more likely.

Without adequate care, residents might not get the medications or nutrition they require. For bed-ridden residents, staffing shortages could result in an increased chance of bedsores. These are just a few of the problems facing both residents and staff members.

Why Nursing Homes Face Staffing Shortages

Nursing homes face difficulties attracting several types of workers, including nursing assistants, licensed practical or vocational nurses, and registered nurses. Common reasons for staffing shortages in nursing homes include:

  • Low wages
  • Lack of benefits
  • Excessive workloads
  • Workplace safety concerns
  • Few opportunities for advancement

In short, the nursing home industry has often failed to offer workers proper incentives and has struggled to build or retain its workforce in numbers needed to properly care for vulnerable residents.

Look for Signs of Understaffing at Your Loved One’s Facility

If you’re concerned about staffing levels of your loved one’s nursing home or long-term care facility, look for common warning signs of understaffing. They include:

  • Staff members appear stressed, rushed, or unable to attend to residents’ needs.
  • Residents lack proper hygiene or nutrition.
  • Facilities aren’t properly maintained and appear unclean.
  • Facilities offer poor response times to residents’ requests or needs.
  • Phones frequently go unanswered.

Talk to your loved one about the care they’re receiving. Do they feel properly cared for? Are they getting enough food, hydration, and medication? If your loved one is being neglected or receiving inadequate care, you’ll need to consider all available options to make sure they’re placed in the right facility.

If Your Loved One Has Been Injured, We’re Here to Help

When your loved one has been seriously injured in a nursing home, you have legal options available. At Sawyer Law Firm, we handle nursing home abuse, neglect, and injury cases. We can help you determine the best path for you and your loved one. Contact the Alabama nursing home injury attorneys at Sawyer Law Firm to schedule a free, confidential case assessment.