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The link between nursing home understaffing and elder abuse

A serious understaffing problem is permeating many of America's nursing homes and continuing care facilities, and it may be placing your loved ones at risk. When nursing homes do not have enough staff members to comfortably cater to all residents and handle all necessary tasks, the quality of care tends to suffer, which can lead to nursing home abuse or neglect, among other issues. Nursinghomeabuseguide.org reports that more than 90 percent of the nation's nursing homes are understaffed, and there are a number of reasons this is the case.

The roots of the understaffing issue

Part of the understaffing problem at American nursing homes may be attributed to the fact that many employers struggle to afford high-quality nurses. Labor costs at these facilities are already high given their around-the-clock nature, and when employers cannot afford nurses, they tend to give tasks they would otherwise reserve for them to staff members with less training. Many trained medical professionals also prefer to work in hospital or traditional doctor's office environments because they may prove less emotionally taxing, among other reasons. Some medical professionals also struggle with the nursing home environment because it can be difficult to watch the health of people you have come to know deteriorate.

How a lack of adequate staff affects care

If your loved one resides in an understaffed continuing care facility, know that a number of associated problems may arise. If your loved one is particularly immobile, he or she may not get to use the bathroom or bathe regularly, and he or she may, too, suffer bedsores and related problems that can develop from a lack of mobility. The general cleanliness of a facility can also suffer because of understaffing, as staff members may struggle to stay current on tasks designed to stop the spread of germs. Nurses and staff members who are overworked are also more likely to miss key signs of medical trouble in patients, which can lead to delayed diagnoses, treatment and associated problems. According to one survey, nearly half of all nurses admitted to failing to notice a change in a patient's condition, further shining a light on just how pervasive the nursing home understaffing problem truly is.

When nursing homes and continuing care facilities are understaffed, it tends to have a trickle-down effect on the entire operation, and often, it is the residents who suffer the most. If you have a loved one in a nursing home and have concerns about the level of care he or she is receiving, consider contacting an attorney.

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