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.
Many Nursing Homes Face Budget Issues
Nursing homes have to decide how many staff members they will need in conjunction with what they can afford. Common positions include aids, nurses, cooks, and housekeepers. While a balanced facility would contain enough staff members to ensure everyday care, in addition to emergencies could be handled, negligent facilities have a history of hiring fewer staff members than they need. This is done to increase the total profits.
Not All Facilities Are Full
There are few nursing homes that operate at full capacity. When beds aren’t filled, profits decrease. As a result, a facility is likely to hire fewer staff members. While this may work out initially, serious problems can develop if more residents move in. It’s unlikely that a facility who is focused on the bottom line will hire more nurses and assistants as the home’s population increases. Most of the time, the staff are expected to pick up the extra work while maintaining the quality of care.
There May Be a Lack of Hiring Options
It’s no secret that long-term care facilities can be difficult and stressful environments. As such, qualified individuals who work with the elderly may prefer to find work in hospitals or other medical facilities where the work is not as draining. It can also be difficult for facilities in small towns or rural areas to find qualified individuals. If health care education opportunities are not nearby to create an influx of people looking for work, it can be challenging to convince a qualified individual to move to a small area.
Nursing Facilities Have High Turn-Over Rates
Nursing home staff are generally pushed to work as hard as they can. While possibilities for overtime may seem like a benefit initially, long, difficult hours can make employees feel overworked and underpaid. Exhaustion and stress can push a person to find a new job elsewhere. Working in a long-term care facility can both physically and mentally taxing. Employees need personal time to recover, or they’re likely to move on to somewhere new.
If the facility doesn’t address the issue, residents in understaffed facilities may sustain serious injuries. At Prince Law Firm, we believe in standing up for the rights of nursing home residents all over Illinois. If you believe your loved one has been abused or neglected in their facility, you can take legal action on their behalf to ensure the home is held accountable for their actions. We will provide you with a free case evaluation so you can decide how best to proceed.