Nursing homes provide crucial support for older adults who can no longer live independently. Those experiencing cognitive decline or struggling with medical issues will benefit from the around-the-clock care and support provided at nursing homes and other assisted living facilities. It often costs thousands of dollars per month for someone to live in a nursing home, even in a room shared with someone else.
Despite those high costs, the standard of care is not always where it should be for the comfort and safety of the residents at nursing homes. Understaffing is one of the most common and concerning safety issues at modern nursing home facilities. All too often, for-profit organizations operating nursing homes minimize staffing to maximize profits. That focus on monetary gain rather than patient care leads to tragedy in many circumstances.
Why is understaffing such a serious safety concern?
Staff can’t provide timely support
If someone can’t safely get out of bed or dress themselves, they will have to call for staff assistance when they want to have a meal or visit with family. Inadequate staff at the facility will likely mean that people wait longer than they should to go to the bathroom or get changed out of their pajamas.
When residents don’t get help in a timely fashion, they may try to do tasks on their own that they should not, resulting in them getting hurt.
Cleaning isn’t a priority
Understaffing often means that workers need to prioritize what they achieve each shift, with pressing patient care demands obviously receiving the effort and attention. Sadly, cleaning is crucial to the ongoing safety and health of the residents at a facility.
Unclean halls might lead to someone slipping and falling, while bodily fluids left on a dress could lead to people getting sick. Infestations and illness may spread quickly in messy facilities. Those who notice the disturbing trend of unclean people or rooms at a nursing home may have reason to worry about their loved one’s standard of living.
Communication and records may suffer
There are likely very dedicated and supportive care professionals at even the most understaffed facility who will do their best to meet the needs of residents. However, they may end up spread so thin that they barely have time to interact with their coworkers, let alone keep comprehensive internal records about patients’ needs and experiences.
When you notice that understaffing seems to be an issue at a nursing home, you will likely need to start paying closer attention during your visit and watching for warning signs of neglect. Abuse can also be more of a concern at an understaffed nursing home, as workers may take out their frustrations on the people in their care.
Watching for and fighting against nursing home abuse will make you a better advocate for a vulnerable loved one.