Understaffing in Alabama Nursing Homes
An understaffed nursing facility is a breeding ground for abuse and neglect
Thousands of people live in nursing homes in the U.S., yet understaffing in nursing facilities has been a crisis for years. And unfortunately, nursing home residents are the ones suffering because of it.
At Shuttlesworth Law Firm, P.C., we believe in justice for nursing home abuse and neglect victims. We know some nursing homes are negligently understaffed to protect profits, and we’ve seen how abuse and neglect can fester in facilities without enough staff. If your loved one was abused or neglected in an Alabama nursing home, we can demand answers, accountability, and compensation for your losses. To learn more about how a nursing home abuse attorney can help you, contact us today for a free consultation.
Why are nursing homes understaffed?
There are many reasons a nursing home may be understaffed, but the cost of labor is a significant factor. Direct-care is labor-intensive work, so staffing is usually the biggest expense on a nursing home’s budget (and for good reason). Owners of nursing facilities may fail to find or maintain qualified CNAs (certified nursing assistants) and other certified personnel to care for residents. So instead, they often stretch their existing staff past the point of exhaustion.
Being shorthanded can put tremendous stress on existing staff. Employees may be pushed to work extremely long hours to cover the lack of personnel. Overworked, underpaid, and stressed employees are prone to making mistakes during their shifts, lashing out at residents, and failing to perform their day-to-day job requirements appropriately. And wages usually aren’t competitive enough to retain staff, leading to high turnover, which also hurts resident care.
Effects of understaffing in nursing homes
Understaffing can negatively affect the staff, but the residents feel the most significant impact. With inadequate staffing comes a lack of care. An excessive workload means nurses and CNAs may not give their full attention to their patients and fail to provide appropriate care.
If any essential needs are ignored, deliberately or not, the consequences can be devastating. Types of neglect residents may face in an understaffed nursing home include:
- Poor hygiene – Poor hygiene comes with a lack of bathing and grooming. It can also happen from leaving residents in the same clothes, not cleaning them up after meals, and not regularly changing their bedding. As time passes, residents who aren’t kept clean can develop infections.
- Lack of movement – Some residents may be immobile or bedridden, so it is the responsibility of the nursing home staff to turn patients in bed. When not moved, they can suffer skin conditions, infections, and pressure ulcers (bedsores). Muscle atrophy can also develop over time, causing lost muscle tissue.
- Dehydration – Nursing home staff need to make sure residents are provided with drinks and monitor them during eating and drinking to ensure they are properly hydrated. Understaffed nursing homes often fail to run effective hydration programs, leading to dehydration and medical complications like urinary tract infections (UTI).
- Malnutrition – Residents may need specific vitamins depending on their health. They may have special dietary requirements due to diabetes or other medical conditions. When nursing homes fail to provide these things, residents can suffer a nutrition deficiency and other complications.
- Choking – Monitoring residents during meals is also important to keep them safe. Many nursing home residents have difficulty chewing or swallowing their food. If there are not enough staff to monitor residents while they are eating, the risk of choking incidents is high.
- Falls – Nursing home residents often need help with mobility, and the risk of falls is high when there are not enough staff to assist them. The facilities may also become cluttered with debris or have dim lighting because there are not enough staff to maintain the premises, which again increases the risk of a trip and fall.
- Medication errors – Nursing homes need to make sure each resident gets all their medications as prescribed, in the right dosage by the right route at the right time. In an understaffed facility, residents may miss doses or may not be monitored while taking their medication, potentially leading to overdoses or other health complications.
- Medical neglect – Perhaps a nursing home’s most important responsibility is to monitor residents’ health and address any health issues promptly. In understaffed facilities, residents may have infections that go untreated, leading to serious complications such as sepsis, as well as untreated injuries like broken bones.
How to report understaffed nursing homes
You should file a complaint if you believe your loved one has suffered harm due to inadequate staffing. First, you can try to reach out to administrators at the nursing home to report your concerns, but you may not get a response. Next, you can report the neglect to the Alabama Public Health Department. You can also contact Alabama’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman. Finally, you can call an experienced nursing home lawyer before or after you file a report. If you need assistance filing the report, an attorney can help with that too.
Is understaffing illegal in nursing homes?
It depends. There are some legal requirements facilities must meet. Nursing homes are required by law to have a certain number of CNAs and nursing staff. In addition, nursing homes are contractually obligated to provide their residents with a certain level of care, and they need enough staff to meet those contractual requirements.
Talk to an Alabama nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer
Understaffing in nursing homes is a problem that is often overlooked. Unfortunately, many nursing home companies intentionally understaff their facilities to cut spending and boost profits, even if it compromises residents’ safety. That’s why it is best to contact an attorney if you suspect your loved one was abused or neglected at a nursing home in Alabama. A lawyer can investigate the circumstances of your loved one’s injury or illness, review personnel records, and gather other evidence to support your claim.
At Shuttlesworth Law Firm, P.C., our highly-skilled legal team has the knowledge, experience, and resources to handle every aspect of your claim and fight for the justice your family deserves. In addition, we work on a contingency fee basis. That means you pay no fees unless we win your case, and no upfront money is required.
To learn more about how we can help you, contact us to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation.