Staffing Shortages in Nursing Homes – What Are the Risks to Residents?

Posted by PKSD New Mexico Law Firm on March 4, 2024 in Nursing Home Neglect

elderly nursing home resident in wheelchairNursing homes play a crucial role in providing care for the elderly, but staffing shortages are a significant problem. When understaffing exists, nursing homes cannot meet the acceptable standards of care. For residents, this means more than sub-standard care, however. Being short-staffed puts the health and safety of residents at risk, as negligence is more likely to occur.

At PKSD New Mexico, we are dedicated to fighting for the rights of elderly residents who depend on their daily care being provided by nursing home staff. When even their most basic needs are not met, it is a significant problem. When it results in causing serious or fatal harm to residents, nursing homes must be held accountable.

Need legal help for a case of nursing home negligence? Our experienced nursing home abuse attorneys in New Mexico are prepared to help. Our legal team has spent decades advocating for residents injured due to nursing home abuse or neglect. We have recovered millions in compensation on our clients’ behalf.

Call for a FREE case review today. 505-677-7777

How Does Understaffing Impact Resident Safety?

Understaffing in nursing homes can lead to a myriad of issues, primarily because staff are overwhelmed, overworked and may also lack the necessary training to effectively manage the care of residents.

According to a 2023 report from the American Health Care Association, 84 percent of all nursing homes surveyed currently report moderate to high staffing shortages.

Understaffing puts the health and safety of residents at risks due to:

Increased Likelihood of Medication Errors

Overworked staff or those lacking proper training are more prone to make medication errors. These mistakes can range from administering the wrong dosage to giving the wrong medication entirely, posing serious risks to residents’ health.

Poor Hygiene

When there is insufficient staff, the personal hygiene for residents often gets ignored. This neglect of daily care is considered a form of nursing home neglect. Neglect of daily hygiene can manifest in residents not being regularly cleaned or groomed, which significantly increases the risk of infections and other health issues.

Residents More Likely To Suffer From Malnutrition or Dehydration

Nutritional needs are another area that often gets overlooked in understaffed nursing homes. Staff may not have the time or resources to ensure residents’ dietary requirements are properly met. This neglect can lead to malnutrition or dehydration. This is especially true for residents who need assistance eating or drinking. Unfortunately, there are extreme cases of neglect where staff may intentionally withhold food or water from residents who are immobile or more dependent.

Increased Risk of Developing Bedsores

Residents with mobility issues are particularly vulnerable in understaffed facilities. They require frequent repositioning to prevent bedsores, a need that goes unmet when staffing falls below federal limits. Bedsores can lead to severe complications, including sepsis if left untreated.

Residents Who Need Assistance May Have More Falls

A lack of adequate support for residents with mobility issues increases the risk of falls. These incidents can result in serious injuries, such as fractures or head injuries, and are more likely to occur when staff cannot provide the necessary assistance.

How Understaffing Makes Physical Abuse of Residents More Likely

Understaffed nursing homes also see an increase in the likelihood of physical abuse, for many reasons, including:

  • Staff are not just overworked; they are also typically underpaid.
  • Stressed, overworked and frustrated staff are more likely to lash out at residents.
  • Inexperience may also play a role in abuse as staff may not have received sufficient training.
  • Negligent hiring often further increases the risk of abuse as understaffed facilities may take shortcuts to get new staff on board faster.
  • Understaffed facilities often have negligent supervision and accountability of staff, making it easier for abusive behaviors to go unnoticed and unreported.

Are There Staffing Requirements That Nursing Home Facilities Have To Meet?

Federal insurance programs mandate staffing levels based on the number of residents. However, these staffing requirements are often not met, further exacerbating the problem.

Currently, the minimum staffing rule in New Mexico is that each facility has enough nurses and nurse aides on a shift to provide approximately 2.5 hours of care for each patient, per day. However, even that rule does not guarantee sufficient care for residents.

President Biden proposed a new federal rule in September 2023. If that rule is finalized and passed, it will require facilities to provide three hours of direct nursing care for each patient per day. Of those three hours, the type of care and requirements are broken down even further to include:

  • .55 hours of registered nursing care
  • .45 hours of care from a certified nursing assistant (CNA)

Do You Need Legal Help for Suspected Nursing Home Neglect? Call PKSD New Mexico Today

If you suspect a loved one has been a victim of neglect or abuse in an understaffed nursing home, we strongly recommend seeking legal help as soon as possible.

At PKSD New Mexico, our experienced team of legal professionals is prepared to answer your questions and offer guidance. If you have a case and choose our firm to represent you, we will fully investigate your case and work tirelessly to secure compensation for the harm you or your loved one suffered.

Our law firm provides services on a contingency fee basis, meaning we only get paid if we obtain compensation for your damages.

PKSD New Mexico. Ready to fight for you. 505-677-7777

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