Report: Many Nursing Homes Often Understaffed

Image result for nursing homeA new report shows that most nursing homes often operate under lower staffing levels than they have reported to the government, placing residents at risk of abuse and neglect.

The report was released by Kaiser Health News, and was based on Medicare data. The agency only recently began collecting such staffing data on more than 14,000 such nursing facilities across the country. The data clearly indicates that there are fluctuations in staffing on a day-to-day basis in most nursing homes. Weekends tend to be critically understaffed, with large percentages of staffing shortages reported over the weekend.

The fact that nursing home staffing levels may not be consistent throughout the year has only now come to light after Medicare recently began collecting this important information. It is a suspicion, however, that Indianapolis nursing home abuse attorneys have had for several years.

A recent New York Times report published incidents involving residents in many nursing homes where staffing levels frequently dipped during certain periods. Elderly residents reported needing help to wear clothes or to perform other routine tasks and not being able to find even a single staff member in the corridors. On weekends, many nursing facilities, according to residents quoted in the NYT report, turned into ghost towns.

Medicare’s five-star rating system allows many families that are making the decision to place their loved ones in nursing homes, access to information on which to base their decisions.  However, this Medicare data indicates that many facilities probably have inflated five-star ratings based on staffing levels. A nursing home that has a five-star rating may not necessarily have optimum levels of staffing throughout the year. There are days when staff strength is low, and these are the times that residents are most at risk of neglect.

Medicare does require the presence of a registered nurse in a nursing home at least 80 percent of the time, and the presence of a licensed nurse at all times. However, the agency stops short of requiring a minimum staffing ratio to be maintained at all nursing home facilities across the country.  The agency now plans to include this updated data in a revised rating system.

This is one more aspect of a senior’s care that family members must keep in mind while deciding on a nursing home facility for a loved one. Ask about the staffing levels at the facility you are considering. How many staff members are available on weekends? How many on weekdays? What about holidays and other special occasions? Some facilities take advantage of the fact that family members tend to visit loved ones on weekends to reduce staffing numbers during those days.

The Indianapolis nursing home abuse attorneys at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy, LLP represent elders who have been subjected to abuse or neglect in nursing homes across Indiana.