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Problems with Understaffing in Nursing Homes

Published: Jan 26, 2017 in Nursing Home, Personal Injury

As of 2014, more than 1.4 million people resided in nursing homes across the country. While countless families rely on nursing homes to provide essential care for their elderly loved ones, many long-term care facilities are understaffed. This can lead to cases of nursing home negligence in Alabama. In fact, federal study by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2002 revealed that 91 percent of nursing homes are so understaffed they cannot provide basic care to their residents. Learn more in the following report:

The population most likely to need long-term care is expected to double to 8.9 million by 2030, which means that understaffing is likely to become worse, not better, over time. Although there has been a renewed effort by the federal government to improve nursing home care standards, existing minimum staffing requirements are largely regarded as inadequate.

Federal and State Staffing Requirements

The staffing requirements for nursing homes are governed by federal and state law. With respect to federal standards, the minimum staffing requirements are established by the Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA), as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1987. Most states have additional requirements, but there are no specific ratios for staffing in Alabama.

Under federal law, nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds, must:

  • Have sufficient nursing staff to provide nursing and related services,
  • Ensure that the medical care of each resident is supervised by a physician and must provide or arrange for the provision of physician services 24 hours a day, in case of an emergency, and
  • At least one licenses RN for at least 8 straight hours a day, 7 days a week, and
  • Either an RN or LPN/LVN on duty 24 hours per day

How Understaffing Negatively Impacts Nursing Home Residents

When nursing homes are understaffed, residents are the ones who suffer. According to the HHS report to Congress, residents in nursing homes that lack sufficient staff are more likely to experience bedsores, malnutrition, weight loss, dehydration, pneumonia and serious blood-borne infections.

Higher staffing levels improve the safety and quality of care for nursing home patients including:

  • Lower mortality rates
  • Improved physical functioning
  • Decreased use of antibiotics
  • Decreased use of physical restraints
  • Decrease in incidence of pressure ulcers and urinary tract infections
  • Lower rates of hospitalization
  • Less weight loss and dehydration

Burnout among nurses and nursing assistants, high turnover rates, and stressful working conditions mean that nursing homes must frequently deal with staff shortages. Research has found that understaffing is a leading cause of abuse and neglect in nursing homes.

According to Alabama Department of Senior Services, some of the most common signs of nursing home abuse include:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Unwarranted or unreasonable physical restraint
  • Extended periods without food or water
  • Overmedication or not receiving proper medication
  • Isolation
  • Use of a physical pharmaceutical restraint that is inconsistent with physicians’ orders
  • Disregard for the necessities of daily living
  • Lack of care for existing medical problems
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Infections

Talk to the Alabama Nursing Home Abuse and Negligence Lawyers at Belt & Bruner, P.C. Today

If you believe your loved one is being abused or neglected due to nursing home understaffing, contact Belt & Bruner, P.C. for help. Our compassionate team of attorneys will listen to your concerns, answer any questions you may have, and help your loved achieve a recovery for any injuries caused by nursing home staff.

Contact us today at (205) 933-1500 to speak with one of our nursing home abuse and negligence lawyers. We offer a free consultation and do not charge attorney fees unless we obtain compensation for your case.



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