Published on May 2, 2019

Understaffed Nursing Homes – What Are the Dangers?

Understaffing is a BIG Problem

Nursing homes exist to provide senior citizens with quality care during the later years of their lives. The reality is that many nursing homes are unable to do so because they simply do not have enough staff members to give each resident the individualized attention they need and deserve.

Believe it or not, studies from the Nursing Home Abuse Center show that as many as 95% of nursing homes in the United States may be understaffed. This is a serious concern, as understaffed nursing homes are likely to make mistakes and engage in neglect.

Reasons Nursing Homes are Often Understaffed

There are a number of reasons why understaffed nursing homes have been a problem for decades and continue to be an issue. The most common reason is cost. Compared to other costs, the expenses related to nursing home labor are high. Some facilities cannot afford to pay as many nurses, certified nursing assistants, physical therapists, and aides as they need. Additionally, some nursing homes choose to hire less staff than they need in order to maximize their profits.

In other situations, nursing homes have difficulty retaining skilled medical professionals. This is mainly because working in a nursing home can be stressful, and some nursing home workers quit as they prefer to work in hospitals, schools, and other less taxing environments. Nursing home staff shortages are also common in rural areas where it can be a real challenge to find enough qualified personnel.

What Happens When Nursing Homes are Understaffed

Understaffed nursing homes can pose a serious danger to residents. When there is not enough staff in a nursing home, the facility is simply unable to provide the quality, individualized care each resident needs to remain happy and healthy.

Nurses, aides, and other medical professionals who work in understaffed nursing home environments are often juggling many residents and responsibilities at once, and are unable to pay attention to detail. When this happens, mistakes, injuries, and even fatalities might occur.

Nursing home residents who are living with chronic or severe medical conditions, as well as those who are immobile, are at significant risk in an understaffed facility. They may depend on nursing home staff to assist them with basic daily activities such as eating, drinking, grooming, and using the restroom. If there are not enough staff members to help them, their physical and emotional health may suffer.

Some of the most common problems that residents of understaffed facilities face include:

  • Dehydration or malnutrition – It can be difficult for residents to meet their nutritional needs when there aren’t enough staff members to provide them with food and water on a regular basis.
  • Falls – When staff members aren’t by their side, residents may attempt to do more on their own and experience falls as a result.
  • Inadequate hygiene – If staff members aren’t able to help residents shower and wash their clothes and sheets regularly, they may suffer from inadequate hygiene.
  • Medication errors – Understaffing may lead to residents receiving the wrong type or dosage of medication.

The article originally appeared here: Understaffed Nursing Homes – What Are the Dangers?

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