Understaffing Leads to Elder Neglect
Long Beach Attorney Holding Nursing Homes Accountable
We trust nursing homes to care for and protect our older family members. This is not an easy job, and caregivers who work diligently are among the most hardworking and remarkable people around. Unfortunately, some facilities try to cut costs by understaffing, which doesn’t provide the skilled professionals essential to make sure residents are properly cared for.
If you believe a nursing home facility is understaffed, take action to protect your loved ones. Report what you have seen to the California Department of Public Health, then call Siegel Law at (562) 645-4145 to discuss your legal options with a Long Beach elder neglect lawyer.
What Is Understaffing?
Understaffing is when a business fails to provide a sufficient numbers of employees to satisfy the needs of its customers or those who rely upon it. The results can be pretty minor in some cases, such as a retail business that is short on employees, so customers have to wait longer to receive help. In healthcare, however, understaffing is a serious issue. Illnesses go undiscovered or untreated, people are neglected, and it may even be fatal for patients.
Common Forms of Understaffing
Although understaffing can happen in different ways, there are a few common forms to watch out for when looking at a new nursing home or visiting a loved one:
- Short-term understaffing: A lack of staff or workers that happens for a brief time and is quickly remedied. Such understaffing can be common and not a major issue, often caused by staff members leaving while new people are unable to start for a few days. This is not usually indicative of abuse, but should be monitored.
- Chronic understaffing: When understaffing becomes a chronic issue, the nursing home must change the situation. Chronic understaffing can occur when positions remain unfilled for an extended time, or the home has high levels of turnover. Both are problems, and if you see staff members come and go frequently, that may mean there are poor conditions for them and residents.
- Lack of primary staff: Primary workers include people who spend their entire workday at a nursing home. These are the caregivers who should always be around. Each person needs ample time off, since nursing home work is stressful and emotionally draining. If you often find an empty front desk or don't see many caregivers during a visit, then primary staff may be short.
- Lack of specialists: Most nursing homes have additional staff members who are only available on certain days of the week. You should make sure these people are actually being provided on those days. One missed day is not too bad, but if you see a pattern, it may be an issue.
How Can Understaffing Result in Abuse?
Understaffing is essentially a form of neglect, since it means the nursing home does not have enough people to attend to the needs of its residents. Neglect can lead to bedsores, residents not being fed or cleaned properly, and residents with dementia wandering away and getting seriously hurt. Understaffing can also overwhelm those staff members who do work, leading to dissatisfaction, serious stress, and anxiety, which can result in abusive behavior towards the residents. A high turnover rate might also be a sign of other abuse going on at a facility - if it makes staff uncomfortable, they might choose to leave instead of reporting it to the authorities as they should.
What Can I Do?
You can start by talking to the administrator of your loved one’s nursing home to see if there is a reasonable cause for short-term understaffing. If it seems to be a chronic issue, consider moving your loved one to another facility, and contact the California Department of Public Health, Licensing and Certification Division, to file a complaint. You might also be able to take civil action against the nursing home if your loved one was injured as a result of understaffing.
Call Siegel Law at (562) 645-4145 to discuss your case and talk about your options. Our attorney specializes in elder issues. We offer a free consultation, and we’ve dealt with understaffing cases many times before and know what to do.
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