The majority of long term care facilities in the United States are understaffed. Neglected residents are likely to experience malnutrition, incontinence, injuries, and preventable hospitalizations. In addition to the physical consequences, they could also suffer from emotional trauma in the shape of loneliness, fear, lack of social relationships, and loss of dignity. Nursing assistants are also at an increased risk of injury when there is too few staff to care for a high number of residents.
Nursing home residents who require skilled care need at least 4.1 hours of care per day. At least 1.2 hours of that time needs to come from a licensed or registered nurse. This is the minimum amount of care to prevent problems like pressure ulcers, dehydration, and losing the ability to carry out daily tasks like dressing and eating. If a facility does not have enough staff to meet those needs, residents will suffer.
Nursing homes can decide for themselves how may certified nursing assistants and nurses they need. Federal regulations only require “sufficient” staffing. The vague wording means negligent facilities can work the system to increase their profits by decreasing their staffing numbers.
In Illinois, the state laws also declare that staffing needs to be sufficient based on the needs of the residents. They do, however, require licensed staff and direct care staff to be working for certain amounts of time. A minimum of 25 percent of nursing and personal care time must be provided by a licensed nurse. At least 10 percent of that time needs to involve a registered nurse. The remaining 75 percent of care can come from either a licensed or registered nurse.
If you’re in the process of choosing a nursing home for your loved one, you’ll want to ensure the facility is properly staffed. It can be challenging, but not impossible, to find a facility that is. The following causes, however, are the biggest contributors to the understaffing issue.