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scottsdale • phoenix
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How Can Nursing Home Understaffing Put Your Loved One at Risk?

We all want the best care for our elderly loved ones, but sometimes a lack of adequate staffing in the nursing home environment results in serious harm. While most people think of nursing home abuse as occurring when dangerous staff members purposefully harm patients, nursing home injuries more often occur due to serious forms of neglect that result from understaffing. Understaffing means residents of nursing homes are far more likely to suffer from a variety of preventable injuries and illnesses.

Like most states, the state of Arizona sets minimum staffing requirements for long-term care facilities; however, up to 94% of nursing homes in the United States fall short of their staffing requirements, increasing risks to patients.

How Can Nursing Home Understaffing Put Your Loved One at Risk?

Why are So Many Nursing Homes Understaffed?

Some nursing homes face ongoing staffing shortages due to a limited number of qualified applicants. Many qualified nurses, certified nurses’ assistants, and other medical providers apply elsewhere, perhaps finding end-of-life care for the elderly distressing. Often there is frequent staff turnover impacting the number of well-trained employees available per shift. More commonly; however, understaffing results from managers of nursing home facilities seeking to cut costs by operating with minimal staff.

Staffing a nursing home adequately requires hiring employees for multiple shifts to cover 24-hour care for residents. This becomes costly and cuts into profits. By eliminating certain positions and attempting to provide care with fewer staff members, these facilities place residents at risk of neglect and abuse by overwhelmed caregivers.

How Does Understaffing in Nursing Homes Cause Harm to Elderly Residents?

Understaffed nursing homes directly impact the level of care the residents receive. With fewer employees on the floor during a given shift, the following may result:

  • One employee attempts to move a patient when the move requires two employees for safety
  • Residents may fall during an attempt to use the bathroom by themselves when no staff member responds to their calls
  • Bedridden residents may suffer severe and/or infected bedsores due to a lack of position changes
  • Patients suffer dehydration and malnutrition due to lack of supervised attention at meals and snacks
  • Over-scheduled employees with more patients than they can properly care for may cause irrational anger toward residents resulting in verbal and/or physical abuse

Understaffed facilities and overwhelmed staff members in nursing homes cause residents to suffer from neglect, preventable injuries, loneliness, poor hygiene, and other safety risks and human indignities.

Who is Most At-Risk in Understaffed Nursing Homes?

Some nursing home residents face more risk from understaffing than others. Those at greatest risk are immobile patients who require complete care, including frequent position changes to prevent pressure wounds (bed sores). Also at risk are patients suffering from dementia who may not remember to eat or drink without a staff member there to remind them to pick up a fork, take a bite, or finish their drink.

Patients with serious illnesses and comorbidities who require many medications may also face serious risks when understaffing causes mistakes in their daily medication types, dosages, and contraindications.

High workloads in understaffed facilities make it difficult or impossible for medical providers and caregivers to provide an acceptable level of individual care to highly vulnerable residents.

No matter the cause of a facility’s understaffing, whether as an intentional effort to reduce costs or due to hiring shortages, a nursing home owes every resident an appropriate level of care, safety, and the protection of their human dignity. If a facility fails to live up to these requirements, it may be held liable for the harm caused to a vulnerable elderly resident.

Contact a Knapp & Roberts Arizona elder abuse attorney to discuss your case over a free consultation.

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The personal injury attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona, at Knapp & Roberts have the compassion and trial lawyer skills to tell your story to a jury. We will get to know you and your family so that we can help the jury understand what has happened to you and your family and how it has changed your lives. Obtain the compensation necessary for the injuries and losses you have suffered.