Facilities need enough staff to provide high-quality services.
Labor shortages are affecting many industries in Alabama and throughout the country, but few have been hit as hard as the nursing home industry. As AARP noted in an article on the staffing crisis, U.S. nursing homes have lost roughly 15 percent of their workforce since March 2020 — and that starting point was already lower than it should have been. The COVID-19 pandemic made it worse, but understaffing has been a significant problem for nursing homes for many years, and too often, it’s residents who suffer.
Understaffing is a major contributor to abuse and neglect.
We’ve represented many Alabama families in nursing home abuse and neglect cases, and understaffing was a factor in many if not most of those cases. Direct care is labor-intensive work, and residents suffer when there aren’t enough hands to do that work. Some of the ways understaffing can contribute to nursing home neglect include:
- Staff may not have time to thoroughly bathe residents or assist with toileting and changing clothes, leading to an increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTI) and other diseases.
- The facility may not have enough man-hours of labor to regularly turn residents in bed, leading to pressure ulcers (bedsores) that can become infected.
- Staff may not closely monitor residents while the residents are eating and drinking, leading to dehydration and malnutrition.
- Medical emergencies may not be attended to in a timely manner. For example, depending on the facility’s layout, if there are few staff who all happen to be at one end of the building, they may not even hear a resident’s bed alarm at the other end.
- The physical maintenance of the facility may be neglected, leading to poor lighting, cluttered hallways with trip hazards, and other dangers to residents.
- Understaffed facilities usually also have high turnover, which means staff are less familiar with residents’ needs and residents have less opportunity to become comfortable and build rapport with their caregivers. This environment allows neglect to fester.
In addition, understaffing creates a breeding ground for nursing home abuse. When a facility is sufficiently desperate for staff, management may skip background checks or hire people with significant red flags. They also may retain staff who show warning signs of abusive behavior because they lack other options. Moreover, when staff are stretched thin, their stress level increases — which, to be clear, is not an excuse, but it can exacerbate other problems.
Negligent facilities need to be held accountable.
It’s easy to point to the pandemic and broader economic problems as an excuse, but the truth is that nursing homes have a long history of putting profits ahead of resident care and safety. As Adelina Ramos, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) quoted in the AARP article, said: “These CEOs save money on short staffing. They keep that money, and at the end of the year, they get big bonuses for themselves while we’re working short all the time.”
That’s why we work so hard every day to hold negligent facilities accountable and pursue justice for victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. If your loved one was hurt in a nursing home or assisted living facility in Alabama, we would be honored to explain your legal rights and options. Give us a call or contact us online for a free consultation with an experienced Alabama nursing home negligence attorney.