Staffing Shortages at Nursing Homes

When an elderly patient is unexpectedly injured or dies, family members may see it as part of the aging process. But this may be a sign that the nursing home was providing negligent care. Specifically, there may have been a staffing shortage which left your loved one unattended.

Nursing homes are required to maintain certain staffing levels, in line with state and federal regulations. If you visited your loved one during the work week, you may have observed a busy patient floor with more than enough professionals. But what about after you left? 

Many families have asked the same question. In 2018, Kaiser Health News provided some insight.

Medicare had started publishing daily payroll records from U.S. nursing homes, as required by the Affordable Health Care Act. Kaiser conducted an independent review of more than 14,000 nursing homes, finding at the average nursing home, patients may receive optimum care during full staffing. But during low staffing, caregivers have to hustle and care for nearly twice as many patients. 

Nursing homes must staff adequate numbers of employees per patient. They must also make sure professionals on duty have the right expertise. For instance, there must be a nurse on duty at all hours. Nursing aides (or certified nursing assistants - CNAs) have the lowest level of training and must have supervision. 

During staffing shortages, nursing homes may neglect patients because they cannot keep up. They may fall behind on meal and medication schedules. But another risk is the nursing home staff may start to deviate from patient care orders. They may come up with their own approaches, such as moving multiple patients to a central location so it is easier to manage them. This is highly dangerous and can contribute to the spread of nursing home infections.

Staffing Requirements at Massachusetts Nursing Homes

Massachusetts nursing homes have a responsibility to follow the state’s staffing requirements. Because they serve elderly patients, nursing homes have a responsibility to hire employees with medical expertise, compassion and patience in working with elderly patients.

At the highest level, Massachusetts nursing homes must have a full-time administrator who stays at the nursing home during the work day. Certain facilities may employ an administrator for fewer hours as needed.

Nursing homes also have a medical director and physicians, physician assistants or nurse practitioners. These professionals can perform medical examinations and make a diagnosis. They can also order treatments and medications.

Nursing care must be provided by registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and nursing aides. This work can be demanding and stressful and there is a high level of turnover at some nursing homes.

When there is a staffing shortage, it usually impacts nurses and nursing aides the most. This is notable because they have the most direct contact with patients, who may miss their meals, opportunities for light recreation and medication. Or worse, the patient may receive the wrong medication or suffer a fall. 

Your Rights in Nursing Home Negligence Cases in Massachusetts

After a loved one's death, there is deep grief, especially when you feel you should have protected them or found another long-term care facility. It can be even harder when you don't know exactly what happened.

When you want answers and accountability, it is time to consult a Boston personal injury lawyer. Our attorneys are here to advise you of your legal rights to seek financial compensation and investigate the negligence.

Breakstone, White & Gluck has successfully represented Massachusetts families after nursing home negligence and abuse, in cases leading to serious injury or wrongful death. Handling cases from Springfield to Boston, we are thorough, experienced and committed to achieving the best possible results for your family.

Let our attorneys help you. For a free legal consultation, call 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.
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