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Nursing Home Staffing Crisis: Is Your Loved One Affected?

nursing home staffer with elderly resident

New federal data suggest there is an epidemic of understaffing at nursing homes. While this has been the case for years, nursing homes have been able to fly under the radar by over-reporting their staffing numbers. But when the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, one of the new requirements was that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services begin collecting and making publicly available the daily payroll logs from over 14,000 nursing homes in the U.S. Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law, Medicare had relied on the unverified reports submitted by the nursing homes themselves to rate the facilities’ staffing levels.

Staffing levels fluctuate predictably

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services routinely conducts inspections of nursing homes, gathering the data that feed the rating system. Before the ACA, nursing homes were required to provide their staffing data for the two weeks prior to the inspection. But since it was sometimes possible for nursing homes to anticipate when an inspection would take place, they could increase their staffing levels during this two-week period, creating the illusion of consistently adequate staffing.

It’s not unusual for residents and visiting family members to notice a dearth of staffing on the weekends compared to Monday through Friday. In an interview with The New York Times, Jay Vandemark, 47, stated that the facility he lives at is “almost like a ghost town” on the weekends. Since suffering a stroke, Vandemark resides at the Beechtree Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing in Ithaca, NY. Vandemark noted that he frequently must go off in search of an aide to help him when he needs assistance getting dressed.

Inadequate nursing home staffing equals inadequate care

When a nursing home has inadequate staffing, the residents pay the price. Residents have the same care needs on the weekends as on every other day of the week, yet Medicare records show that there is an average of 11% fewer nurses and 8% fewer aides during these times. The records for Beechtree indicate that, on its worst days, there was only one aide per 18 residents. Its best staffed days had a ratio of one aide to eight residents.

Overworked and underpaid aides are forced to rush from resident to resident, bringing them meals and medications, and bathing and dressing them. But it’s just not possible for one aide to provide adequate care to so many residents, which means some residents slip through the cracks. A resident who isn’t properly cared for may suffer from problems like these:

  • Missed medications
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition/weight loss
  • Falls and injuries
  • Bedsores and infections

It’s essential that family members visit their loved ones regularly, at varying times and days of the week, to check on the care they are receiving, and to check for possible signs of nursing home negligence or abuse.

What to do if your loved one is affected

If you believe your loved one has been neglected or abused, he or she is counting on you to take action right away. It just might save your loved one’s life. You can always call your local police station if you believe your loved one is being abused and is at risk of imminent harm. Otherwise, contact the personal injury lawyers at Edelman, Krasin & Jaye on Long Island and in NYC. Our Long Island nursing home negligence and abuse lawyers are committed to protecting seniors and disabled residents by holding the at-fault parties responsible for their negligence and abuse. You can reach us at 516-742-9200 to request a prompt consultation.

Additional resources on nursing home negligence:

  1. The New York Times, ‘It’s Almost Like a Ghost Town.’ Most Nursing Homes Overstated Staffing for Years, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/07/health/nursing-homes-staffing-medicare.html
  2. U.S. News & World Report, 9 Warning Signs of Bad Care, https://health.usnews.com/health-news/best-nursing-homes/articles/2013/02/26/9-warning-signs-of-bad-care