What happens when nursing homes are understaffed?

If you have a loved one who you may soon need to place in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you probably want to do everything in your power to see that the care he or she will ultimately receive is top-notch. Regrettably, however, many nursing homes suffer from chronic understaffing, and this can have a considerable effect on the level of care your loved one will receive.

Per, the nursing home understaffing problem is so prevalent in America that it impacts more than 90 percent of the nation’s nursing homes.

Root causes of understaffing

There are several factors that play a role in nursing home understaffing, and one of them involves costs of labor. Because nursing home residents require regular, ‘round-the-clock care, labor costs at such facilities are sky-high. However, many facilities try to cut costs by employing the bare minimum number of medical professionals and making them take on more tasks and duties than might be appropriate.

Some facilities also struggle to pay their doctors and nurses adequate salaries, and this is particularly true in more rural areas. Low pay, combined with the long hours and the often high-stress environment of nursing homes and continuing care facilities, only exacerbate the understaffing problem.

Understaffing consequences

When nursing home staff members are stretched too thin, many problems can result. For example, if staff members suffer exhaustion or fatigue, they become more likely to make errors that can impact your loved one’s quality of care. For example, exhaustion can cause a medical professional to miss changes in a patient’s condition that he or she may typically pick up on. Similarly, exhaustion and fatigue can also lead to medication errors, which can prove extremely dangerous and even potentially deadly.

Overtired or overworked nursing home workers can also sometimes take out their frustration on patients in the form of abuse or neglect. In some cases, your loved one may not receive regular feedings, changings, washings or what have you if staff members have too much going on. Additionally, many residents must have supervision when using the bathroom, showering and so on to reduce the risk of a fall, but understaffed nursing homes do not always have enough staff members available to watch them.

In summary, exhausted and overworked staff are more likely to commit abuse, whether intentional or not.


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