Nursing home understaffing poses a significant risk to the health and well-being of your loved ones. Nursing home residents may be vulnerable due to decreased mobility, impaired cognitive functioning, or inability to care for their daily needs. Nursing home understaffing opens these vulnerable residents to several forms of harm which could otherwise be limited or avoided by increased staffing.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Health currently requires that nursing home staff be able to directly care for and attend to each resident for a minimum of 2.7 hours per 24-hour cycle. This standard has remained in place since 1999. In light of growing concerns about nursing home understaffing and its severe consequences, Governor Wolf’s administration recently acknowledged this standard’s inadequacy, and advocate for a 1.4 hour increase. This would move the standard up to the minimum federal recommendation of 4.1 hours per day by the end of 2022.
Currently, less than a quarter (24.1%) of Pennsylvania nursing homes meet the 4.1 federal recommendation standard. Nursing homes that routinely operate at lower staffing ratios places Pennsylvania residents at risk. According to a Philadelphia nurse understaffing lawyer, when nurses and aides are understaffed, residents wait much longer for help, resulting in accidents, mistakes, and neglect.
Unfortunately, as necessary as such changes may be going forward, they do little to assist those already harmed by nursing home understaffing.
Nursing home understaffing may encourage employees to improperly medicate residents with antipsychotic drugs for sedation. This lessens the nurses’ time commitment attending to residents at the expense of the resident’s physical health and psychological well-being. Additionally, antipsychotic drugs can decrease the resident’s ability to understand and communicate this abuse.
Unattended residents who become agitated or confused are at an increased risk of falls. Sometimes, residents become frustrated when care is unavailable; they attempt to move by themselves and suffer a fall. Understaffing limits the ability of nurses and aides to check on residents who are unable to ask for help. Without regular checks, these residents are more prone to falls. Additionally, residents who are incapable of turning themselves over are at risk of developing painful bedsores and even dangerous and potentially fatal secondary infections. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bed-sores/symptoms-causes/syc-20355893)
The ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic has served to further stress of facilities already suffering from nursing home understaffing. Visitor restrictions deprived nursing home staff of the assistance of the family and effectively increased each staff member’s workload. Secondly, greater focus on maintaining proper protective equipment (PPE) and sterilizing their environment, further limited the time available to each staff member. A Spotlight PA analysis of federal data shows that although “COVID-19 spread at homes with high care ratings as well as those with a history of violations and fines […] the 50 homes with the lowest staffing hours in the state were twice as likely to have at least one coronavirus-related death than the 50 homes with the highest level of staffing hours,” and that
“of the 68 nursing homes where 20 or more residents had died as of June 8, only eight met or exceeded the federal staffing recommendation.” https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2020/06/pennsylvania-coronavirus-nursing-homes-staffing-audits-problems-deaths/
In light of the risk of death posed by COVID-19 to the elderly, the hazards posed by nursing home understaffing may be higher than ever.
If you believe a loved one has suffered as a result of nursing home understaffing, contact our team of nursing home lawyers for a free consultation. A successful claim against a nursing home may cover related medical costs as well as pain and suffering. Call today to get the expert advice you need to get started.