When many of us become too incapacitated to care for ourselves, we may decide to entrust nursing home facilities for our health needs and overall well-being. Families cannot always be expected to care for the elderly since many seniors have special needs that require hours of personal care if not constant monitoring that is too time consuming and costly. But, unfortunately, the majority of nursing home centers fall far short of providing adequate care, mostly due to inadequate staffing.
It is astounding to note that the Nursing Home Abuse Center reports that 95% of nursing home facilities are understaffed, despite state and federal regulations mandating certain staffing levels. For instance, Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing homes require an RN on duty at least 8 hours per day, 7 days a week and an RN or LPN on duty 24-hours a day. However, there are no minimum levels for nursing assistants or aides. They are nonetheless required to provide sufficient staff and services and maintain the highest possible level of mental and physical well-being for each resident. Sadly, nursing facilities are failing us.
Inadequate staffing leads to a wide array of problems and abuses. Nursing homes are for-profit corporate entities where they must meet the demands of shareholders and corporate boards. It is in their best interest to limit staff as much as possible since labor is the most costly expense. But staffing can also be difficult to maintain since finding and retaining trained nurses and aides is not easy. The pay is not attractive and most staff is expected to work overtime that contributes to stress and shortcuts.
Can Nursing Homes be Held Accountable?
A massive jury award against Consulate Health Care in Florida of $347 million for lying to a resident that he was ineligible for government benefits for rehabilitation was overturned by an appeals court despite evidence that the company routinely denied its residents treatment and services. The case remains under appeal but it underscores the theme that while nursing homes may be guilty of abusive practices, it can be difficult to enforce measures against them and to hold them accountable. The court that had overturned the jury verdict ruled that state regulators had not imposed any more than minor fines against Consulate for past alleged abuses.
Despite this ruling, you can still expect that an experienced and knowledgeable nursing neglect lawyer can pursue valid claims against nursing homes who abuse residents and can obtain reasonable compensation for your loved one.
Problems Caused by Understaffing
If a nursing home is understaffed, you might observe the following abuses:
- Overuse of medications to keep patients sedated
- Failure to rotate residents who are bed-ridden, contributing to bed sores and infections
- Failure to supervise residents – presenting fall risks
- Neglecting to bathe patients on a daily basis
- Shortcuts on food and not adhering to patients’ special nutritional needs
- Falsifying patient records
- Not responding to patient calls for assistance
- Not providing medications
- Restraining patients
- Not caring for an ill patient
- Improper billing
- Sexual abuse
- Physical abuse such as slapping or punching a resident
The National Center on Elder Abuse shows us that abuse rates in nursing homes are as high as 44% and neglect rates are up to 95%. With the likelihood of your loved one suffering abuse or neglect as high as it is, this should give pause to anyone who has a loved one in a nursing home or who is thinking of placing a parent there. It also means that you should be vigilant about the care your loved one is receiving and to not hesitate to question possible abuses or irregularities in the nursing home’s policies and staff. If in doubt, contact a nursing neglect lawyer.
Signs of Possible Abuse or Neglect
There are certain signs that your loved one is not receiving the care and treatment that the nursing home is contracted to and required to provide. This can include:
- Bed sores
- Bruises on limbs or in intimate body areas
- Marks of restraint on wrists and ankles
- Change in your loved one’s mood such as quick to anger, listlessness
- Reaction of fear when a staff member appears
- Loss of weight
- Changes in skin color
- Unexplained or irrational explanations for injuries
- Obvious over-billing on statement
- Signs that your loved one is not receiving the medication prescribed
- Unclean room, dirty sheets and clothes
If you observe any of these and other signs that your loved one is not receiving adequate care, demand to talk to the supervisor. You may also want your loved one examined by someone other than the assigned nurse. And talk to an experienced nursing neglect lawyer if your parent has been injured or is mysteriously deteriorating.
Retain Personal Injury Lawyer Paul Tetzel
Paul Tetzel of Tetzel Law serves the Boston and Worcester area and has represented the interests of injured clients, including those of nursing home residents who have suffered abuse because of understaffing. Call his office today at (617) 933-3858 for a free consultation about your possible injury or abuse claim.