Under-staffing in nursing homes is an issue that plagues elderly care facilities throughout the nation, and it has been linked to an increased risk for the neglect and abuse of vulnerable residents. According to the Journal of the National Medical Association, it is estimated that 90 percent of nursing homes in America are short-staffed, and as a result, many residents suffer from malnutrition, dehydration, and other forms of neglect and abuse.
How Labor Shortages Affect Nursing Home Care
When a nursing home is understaffed, workers are unable to provide adequate, individualized care for each resident which places all residents- but especially those with special needs- at risk for injury, serious illness, and even death. Studies reveal that residents of understaffed nursing homes are more likely to miss meals, become dehydrated, acquire bedsores, pneumonia, serious infections or other conditions or experience a worsening of symptoms. Disturbingly, 47 percent of nurses in a recent survey admitted that they had not noticed changes in a patient’s condition due to work overload. Medical problems may not be the only result of understaffed nursing homes, however.
When labor shortages arise, nursing home staff members often become frustrated, overworked, inattentive and angry. As a result, a number of injuries that are caused by abusive acts and neglect are more likely. Common issues that arise include:
- Patients who are immobile or require assistance with using the bathroom, eating or drinking, or changing positions can suffer a great deal when nursing staff is unavailable or unwilling to help them. These individuals can experience injuries from falls, choking, spills, or even suffer skin deterioration due to sitting or lying in soiled clothing or bedding for extended periods. Muscle atrophy is also common among immobile residents who are neglected.
- Physical and emotional abuse that results in injuries and psychological damage is more common in facilities that are understaffed. A Chicago nursing home abuse attorney might see resulting cases that include such things as broken bones, bruising, sexual abuse, severe depression and other physical or mental issues.
While extreme stress and exhaustion are frequently noted in nursing home abuse and neglect cases, they are certainly no excuse. Many times, the abuse and neglect that patients suffer due to understaffing results in painful, and sometimes even permanently disabling injuries or illnesses. In severe cases, victims lose their lives.