Families face a difficult task when deciding whether or not to place their
elderly loved ones in a nursing home or assisted living facility, not
to mention a challenge in finding the right one. To aid them in this journey,
many families will utilize various resources that provide insight into
the level of care and support facilities will provide their family member.
This may include visits and consultations at the nursing homes themselves,
and the use of online tools like Medicare’s five-star nursing home
rating system. Unfortunately, as recent federal data indicates, those
tools, even when curated by a government agency, may not always provide
a full or accurate picture about the quality of care provided at facilities.
According to a recent report from
The New York Times, newly acquired federal data has revealed that most American nursing homes
over reported staffing levels for years as a way to game Medicare’s
five-star system and benefit from higher ratings.
The findings, which came from new payroll data submissions only recently
required by Medicare, showed that many U.S. nursing homes had substantial
gaps in the numbers of staff and aids on duty, especially during weekends
and at night. In fact, some nursing homes had staff-to-resident ratios
of 1 for every 18, or even less during their lowest staffing periods,
despite having reported higher staffing rates to the U.S. government.
The data also revealed significant staffing gaps in the numbers of qualified
nurses on duty, which were again often at their lowest during weekends
How Staffing Problems Pose Risks of Nursing Home Injuries
The new data has made waves throughout the U.S., and has prompted Medicare
to reevaluate its rating system and make adjustments based on the new
numbers, which had escaped oversight due to the fact that under previous
policies, nursing facilities could submit staffing data that was unverified
It is also raising awareness about just how important staffing is in nursing
homes, especially when it comes to reducing risks of preventable injuries.
Below, our legal team at Shrager & Sachs discusses a few ways that
staffing problems can pose increased risks of
nursing home injuries:
Neglect-related injuries – Without sufficient staff on duty, there is greater potential for
the staff who are working to become overburdened by numerous tasks. These
can include tasks such as responding to calls made by residents for assistance
with basic needs, such as getting dressed or using the restroom, as well
as time-sensitive tasks for checking in on residents, ensuring they have
food and water, addressing any medical needs, and more. Unfortunately,
that means residents are at risk of suffering harm and injuries that could
and should have been prevented if not for neglect and oversight, including
dehydration and malnutrition, injuries caused by falls, infections, and
worsening of bed sores.
Medical problems – Many residents in nursing homes and similar facilities have extensive
and evolving medical needs. This often means residents require regular
check-ins, assistance with daily tasks, and time-sensitive administration
of medications or forms of treatment for a given condition. When staff
are overburdened and facilities understaffed, there are greater risks
that such medical issues will turn into medical problems and preventable
injuries, including those caused by medication errors, missed treatment,
and more. It may also mean that untrained staff will administer medical
care that registered and licensed nurses or medical professionals should provide.
Emergencies – Inadequate staffing is especially dangerous when it comes to responding
appropriately to emergencies. This may include any number of medical emergencies
and issues such as falls, assaults between residents, and more. Because
time is often of the essence in such situations, a lack of timely response
and a lack of appropriate immediate treatment can prove disastrous when
Nursing home abuse – Abuse in nursing homes is unfortunately more common than most think,
which is why vigilance and adequate staffing are so critical to reducing
risks that a resident will become a victim. With insufficient staff, however,
overburdened aides or nurses are more likely to become abusers themselves,
often as a result of stress, fatigue, and more. They are also less likely
to provide the care and monitoring needed to spot
warning signs when abuse does occur, whether that involves physical, emotional, financial, or
sexual abuse committed against residents by other staff members or by other residents.
Our legal team at Shrager & Sachs regularly features posts on our blog
about nursing home abuse and neglect, as well as important issues that
affect nursing home residents and their families. In light of the new
findings, we want to remind families of the importance of choosing a nursing
home facility carefully, and regularly checking in on the health and affairs
of a loved one. We also want to remind families that they have legal rights
should an elderly family member suffer preventable harm in a nursing home
as a result of abuse, neglect, insufficient staffing, medical malpractice,
and any other form of negligence.
If you have questions about a potential nursing home injury case, your
rights when pursuing the justice and compensation your deserve, and how
our award-winning Philadelphia nursing home injury lawyers at Shrager
& Sachs can help,
contact us for a free and confidential consultation. Our firm proudly serves nursing
home residents and families throughout the state of Pennsylvania and beyond.