Understaffing a nursing home puts patients at risk. If any business, whether it be a nursing home or a hospital or a factory, does not have enough employees to do a job, that job cannot be done properly. Understaffing in health care settings is catastrophic. Yet, it has become a way of life, or death, in nursing homes as their corporate owners put profits ahead of patient safety.
Neglect and abuse are rampant in nursing homes because of understaffing. In nursing homes, staff time is directly related to the ability to provide minimal care. Statistics show that higher staff levels and lower nurse turnover are linked to fewer medical complications like pressure ulcers, infections, and deaths. I will give you this example. Poor nutrition due to inadequate food intake is a major reason for death in nursing homes. This should never happen. Feeding patients who need assistance, encouraging patients to remain independent in feeding themselves, and supervising patients at mealtimes require staff time. When it is inadequate, patients suffer, and they die or they suffer from bad problems like pressure ulcers which are in large part the result of poor nutrition.
Government regulators have recognized the danger of understaffing in nursing homes. Regulations exist, but they are not followed in too many cases. Nursing homes are required to have enough staff to provide all necessary care to all patients on a 24-hour basis, but in practicality, I don't see this level of staffing happening in many nursing homes. During depositions or in private conversations, many nurses have cried and told me that they despise not being able to provide conscientious care to their nursing home patients. Their staffing is so sparse that they run from patient to patient without having the ability to provide good care.
As an attorney representing patients, I can file suit, but what can you as a family member do immediately? Contact the Agency for Health Care Administration in Tallahassee. That agency will direct you without delay to the people who can provide prompt assistance.