Understaffing Continues to Be One of the Biggest Dangers to Nursing Home Patients


A lack of a sufficient number of staff members in a nursing facility continues to be one of the major contributing factors in nursing home neglect and mistreatment. Understaffing generally creates an environment where overwhelmed caregivers abuse their assigned residents and leave them physically, emotionally, or mentally harmed.

Sometimes, managers in nursing homes intentionally understaff the facility to reduce their costs and increase their profits. The cost of labor tends to be one of the highest expenses of managing and operating a nursing facility. Maintaining an adequately trained nursing staff can be expensive to ensure that every resident is provided with adequate care.

The nursing home industry continues to have an exceedingly high turnover rate that is typically associated with understaffing issues. Many nursing facilities failed to pay their staff overtime while increasing the demands on the worker to stay longer, work additional shifts, or come in on their day off.

Serious Consequences

The consequences of understaffing a nursing facility can be numerous. The patient may be abused or neglected, which leads to psychological disorders, physical ailments, or wrongful deaths. Understaffing in a nursing home can violate every resident’s rights and lead to negligence that includes:

· Overworked staff members can fail to provide every resident care when required

· The resident’s needs can be ignored including the requirement for food intake, water, medications, and hygiene

· The facility can fail to assess residents when getting out of bed or into the wheelchair, which can lead to a fall-related injury

· The nursing home can fail to reposition residents who are unable to turn without assistance that results in life-threatening pressure ulcers

· Nurses can fail to provide the correct medication at the right dosage to a resident

· Overstressed and overworked nursing staff can psychologically or emotionally abuse the residents

· Overworked nurses and nurse’s aides can verbally attack residents

Many of the incidents involving abuse, mistreatment, or neglect occurring in nursing facilities go unreported every year. Many times, the resident is too frightened to speak up or point out the nurse or nurse’s aide guilty of abuse or neglect in fear of retaliation.

The Need for Providing Care

Every nursing home resident is dependent on their caregiver or staff to ensure their needs are met, including grooming, medication administration, bathing, and eating. If the nursing staff fails to bathe or groom the resident regularly, the patient can quickly develop life-threatening infections or sores. Residents who are incontinent of bowel or bladder require ongoing assistance. Any failure to provide that care could lead to severe bedsores or other open wounds that could produce a life-threatening event.

A failure to ensure that the resident’s needs are met can cause nutritional deficiencies, malnutrition, dehydration, and other serious complications.

Immobile patients require a higher level of care due to his or her limited mobility. These residents remain dependent on the nursing staff to ensure that their psychological and physical needs are met. The understaffing at the facility can make it nearly impossible for nurses and nurse’s aides to turn and reposition the patient when required, to ensure that muscle atrophy and bedsores are prevented. Any failure to consistently reposition the resident can cause painful infections and skin conditions.

An Unsafe Environment

Understaffed nursing homes can also produce an environment where the patient becomes emotionally, mentally, physically, or sexually abused. An abusive nurse or nurse’s aide overwhelmed by understaffing issues can quickly become abusive.

The nursing home can take adequate measures to ensure that they are not understaffed. Medicare, Medicaid, the state, and the federal government can hold these nursing homes accountable for understaffing problems. Government agencies can impose monetary penalties and injured residents and family members can file lawsuits to hold the facility financially responsible for practicing unethical behavior and their failure to provide each patient adequate care.

The adverse effects associated with an understaffed nursing facility are apparent. If the nursing center fails to hire enough staff, the nurses and nurse’s aides cannot provide the highest level of care that every patient deserves. An understaffed center may not have adequate employees to ensure that patients receive proper medical attention. Heavy workloads create an environment where the resident loses their individualized care. A lack of appropriate treatment can be extremely harmful to the patient.

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