When you have a loved one in a nursing home, it’s not just the quality of the staff that counts. Quantity matters, too. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, nursing homes have been under intense pressure to care for their patients amidst a global disaster. Being short-staffed at this time simply increases the potential for abuse, neglect, and poor care.
Why Nursing Homes Are Short-Staffed
According to this recent study, nursing home staff was a facility’s single largest expense even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since many residents rely on Medicare to pay for their stay, the homes are unable to raise wages or offer additional benefits to retain qualified staff. One in five nursing homes now report a “severe” staff shortage.
Nursing home workers often leave their jobs because of those low wages and lack of benefits, but they also report that there’s no room to advance, there are workplace safety concerns, and there is simply far too much work assigned to each person. That’s frustrating for the workers (no wonder they’re leaving in droves), but even more so for the residents and their families.
Effects of Staff Shortages
Even the best nursing home employees struggle to properly care for residents when their workloads are too heavy. Residents get less time with nurses and physicians, which means their health concerns often go unaddressed. Neglect is rampant, since workers only have time to address the most pressing issues (or the loudest voices). In turn, there’s an increased chance of resident-on-resident abuse.
The pandemic has made it even more dangerous. As of October 2020, there were over 82,000 nursing home deaths in 41 states due to COVID-19. That number has likely risen throughout the winter surge, and staff are struggling to test and intervene as often as they should.
Look for Signs of Understaffing
If your family member or friend is in a nursing home, watch for signs of understaffing. Knowing there is a problem can help you be proactive in addressing it—or avoiding that home altogether.
Signs include unclean, poorly maintained facilities, failure to answer phones in a timely manner, and poor response times when patients call for help. The staff may appear to be particularly rushed or stressed, and the residents may appear to lack appropriate nutrition and hydration.
If you believe your loved one is suffering abuse and neglect due to understaffing, call an attorney right away. Dworken & Bernstein can guide you through your nursing home abuse case.