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The link between understaffing and nursing home abuse and neglect

Placing your parent or loved one in the care of someone else is rarely easy, but the process can be less emotionally taxing on everyone if you feel confident in your choice of nursing home or continuing care facility. Unfortunately, understaffing is a serious problem that, per NursingHomeAbuseGuide.org, affects more than 90 percent of American nursing homes. While understaffing is a problem for those who work in such environments and have to perform extra duties and spread themselves thin, it also poses a threat to facility residents.

Why understaffing occurs

Today's nursing homes and continuing care centers are understaffed for several reasons. The pay generally is not great, for one, and this makes it hard to find and retain qualified staff, particularly in rural areas. The environment, too, is a factor, as working in residential homes can prove highly emotional and stressful. Such environments also have high labor costs due to the failing health of many patients and the 'round-the-clock nature of the job. To address these rising labor costs, some facilities prefer to have existing staff members take on duties they might otherwise leave to a licensed medical professional, and this, too, can contribute to a lack of sufficient staff.

What happens when understaffing occurs

Some of the problems that arise when continuing care centers are understaffed are obvious, such as residents not getting bathed, fed, exercised or what have you as much as you might prefer. This can prove particularly problematic for residents who have limited mobility, because a lack of attention and mobility may lead to bedsores and infections, among related health problems. Some signs of understaffing are somewhat less obvious. When employees are subjected to long hours, extra job duties and little pay, they may become bitter, fatigued and more prone to lashing out, which may turn into abuse or neglect of your loved one. Employees who are overtired are also more prone to making unintentional mistakes or omissions, which might include anything from forgetting to give your loved one medicine to giving him or her the wrong medicine or failing to recognize signs of a serious injury or illness.

Regrettably, there are very real risks associated with placing your loved one in an understaffed nursing home, but because the staffing problem is so pervasive, it can be tough to avoid. If you have a loved one you believe might be subject to abuse or neglect at a residential home, you may want to speak with an attorney.

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