To provide the right care for all residents, nursing homes must have enough staff. However, this rarely happens. Most nursing homes across the country are significantly understaffed, some of them woefully so. This leads to serious complications and bad situations for residents, who suffer from a lack of care simply because the few staff members the nursing home has do not have enough time to provide adequate care for all of them.
The Situation with Understaffing in Nursing Homes Today
According to a study published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, “Patients in most nursing homes are not receiving proper care due to a shortage of workers.” In fact, the study found that 90% of nursing homes in the US were significantly understaffed. A similar story reported by ABC News pointed out that, “Many nursing homes are so understaffed they may be endangering the welfare of their patients.”
Why Are Nursing Homes So Understaffed?
Considering the fact that nursing homes are now so common, and the burgeoning elderly population who require care in these facilities, as well as the predictions that by 2030, there will be over 3 million elderly in nursing homes, it begs the question of just why these facilities are so understaffed. The need is there. The jobs are there. Nurses have no shortage of employment options within nursing homes. So, why are they understaffed?
Interestingly, one reason could be for financial gain. Nursing homes are money-making ventures. While tasked with providing care for the elderly, they are ultimately about generating a return for investors and owners. To maximize profitability, some owners and investment groups may intentionally short staff their facilities. Any money saved by paying fewer medical professionals goes right to the bottom line.
Stress and High Turnover Rates
Another reason for short staffing is the fact that working as a nursing home nurse can be incredibly stressful. Not only must these professionals deal with understaffing situations, but they must put in a significant amount of overtime to cover the shifts that would otherwise be handled by other nurses. Simply put, it can be incredibly overwhelming, and many medical professionals find that the job is simply too stressful. They leave for “greener pastures.” While that might be the best move for them personally and professionally, it only exacerbates the problem for elders living in and dealing with understaffing in nursing homes.
Problems Understaffing in Nursing Homes Creates
Understaffing in nursing homes leads to some very serious problems for residents. These can include the following:
- Lack of necessary personal care and hygiene
- Lack of proper medical care
- Suffering from serious, potentially life-threatening infections
- The development of bedsores/pressure ulcers from a lack of care
- Dehydration and malnutrition from a lack of care
- Lack of social interaction
- Significant weight loss
- Blood-borne infections from bedsores and other complications
It is important to note that these problems apply to all residents within a nursing home, but are particularly pressing when it comes to patients with limited or no mobility. Simply put, without professional medical staff to care for their needs, their requirements will go unmet. In a worst-case scenario, this can ultimately lead to death.
Even in nursing homes where the staff cares deeply for the residents, understaffing can lead to these problems simply because there isn’t enough time available for the limited number of staff members to attend to all the needs of the residents. However, there are instances where understaffing leaves residents ripe for abuse, which can range from physical to emotional to financial and even sexual in nature.
Understaffing in Nursing Home Statistics
With up to 95% of nursing homes in the US suffering from severe understaffing, it has become crucial for these facilities to address the problem. Nursing home management and owners must also be held accountable for their decisions to short-staff their facilities.
If your loved one has been injured or even died due to understaffing in a nursing home, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced elder abuse attorney who can help you move forward with the case and find the closure that you deserve.