Understaffing in Nursing Homes Is a Major Problem in the U.S.

August 27th, 2018 by Wapner Newman

Understaffing in Nursing Homes Is a Major Problem in the U.S.

It’s not uncommon to hear concerns from loved ones of the 1.4 million individuals who have been moved to American nursing homes. Among the most frequent complaint is a lack of skilled professionals available when residents require assistance. Now, concerned family members’ voices are being vindicated by statistics uncovering staffing inefficiencies at skilled care facilities across the country.

A recent article in The New York Times showcased just how widespread the issue is. As the author explained, records indicate that many nursing homes have provided non-verified staffing figures for years to government funding sources. When investigated more thoroughly, however, auditors found a huge gap between staff numbers reported and staff members present.

How bad is the situation for people in Pennsylvania and across the nation who expect their nursing-home-bound family members and friends to be taken care of quickly, safely, and compassionately?

Consider some of the facts that are bubbling to the surface as a result of these revelations:

  • When staffing problems occur, onsite staff may care for double the number of residents. As would happen in any business, present employees must pick up the slack for non-available workers. Nursing home team members regularly find themselves with twice the workload during staffing shortages.
  • Daily staffing can vary wildly. Erratic scheduling isn’t an anomaly. Instead, it’s more persistent than many nursing facilities originally led Medicare to believe when supplying their staffing figures for official reports.
  • Staffing on weekends is particularly dismal. Though administrators claim that understaffing is less of an issue on weekends since that’s when most visits take place, their words don’t inspire the trust of residents’ loved ones.

These problems aren’t likely to go away on their own, and while it’s great that the Times has hit upon the issue, changes must be made. Without a major overhaul, nursing home residents aren’t just going to wait a few minutes longer to get a snack: They could literally be put in medically compromised conditions.

For instance, when residents with mobility concerns are not properly turned or physically moved, they are at higher risk of developing bedsores. A bedsore or “pressure sore” is basically a blister that first affects the upper layer of skin and gradually becomes deeper. By the time the bedsore hits a Stage 4 designation, the patient can be at risk of rampant infection, which can lead to surgery and, in extreme cases, fatalities.

Additionally, residents who are not correctly supervised may not get their medications in a timely fashion, may not make good mobility choices (increasing the likelihood that they may fall and injure themselves or others), and may have emergencies that are not treated with haste. In these cases, the obvious outcome can be lowered quality of life, as well as heightened chance of early death.

The best way for our populace to ensure nursing home residents get the care they deserve in a safe environment is to hold organizations accountable for appropriately staffing days and nights.

If you have had a relative who experienced significant issues due to understaffing or any other problem, contact Wapner Newman to schedule a free consultation.