Some of the most vulnerable adults live in nursing homes. They have physical or cognitive issues that leave them dependent on the care of other people. Those who can no longer walk on their own may need help going to the bathroom and getting dressed every day. Someone with cognitive issues related to age might need assistance with eating or someone to monitor them for safety so they don’t escape the facility and wander off somewhere.
Nursing homes have an obligation to their residents. They should provide a comfortable and safe place to live and the services someone needs to maintain their health. Unfortunately, many nursing homes don’t have enough staff, which inevitably puts their residents at unnecessary risk.
Why are nursing homes chronically understaffed when the risks to the residents are so well-known?
Staffing is a major expense for a business
The employees at a nursing home represent one of the biggest operating expenses for the company. If the company wants to generate profit, it will likely prioritize keeping costs low by reducing staffing expenses. They do this by limiting the number of hours people work, how many staff members they retain and how much they pay the workers.
A large number of nursing homes have a profit motive rather than a primary focus on the safety and quality of life of their residence. According to information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 69.3% of nursing homes have for-profit ownership.
Pursuing ever-higher profits means that companies keep the number of people on staff low, offer low wages and hire people with questionable backgrounds because they are willing to accept those wages and work conditions.
What is the practical impact of understaffing?
Residents ultimately are the ones who suffer when nursing homes don’t invest in enough staff. They may not have someone there to help them when they need something, and they could easily get hurt trying to go to the bathroom or get dressed without assistance.
Residents with severe cognitive or physical limitations are at particular risk. They may not receive the care they need to prevent bedsores or keep their spaces clean, which could lead to infestations or infections.
When you notice signs of understaffing at a nursing home, you may want to document those concerns, as it may be the first warning sign of neglect in the facility.