Residents of nursing homes in New Mexico require consistent care by registered nurses, nursing aides, and other nursing home staff. When nursing homes are short on these direct care and administrative workers, elderly and disabled residents suffer from neglect.
How big is the problem?
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services require an adequate ratio of registered nurses to nursing home patients. According to a Kaiser Health News and New York Times investigation, 1,400 nursing homes in the U.S. do not meet this minimum requirement. What’s more, investigators found that it was common for a nursing home to go eight hours without having at least one registered nurse on duty.
While registered nurses provide important medical treatment for patients, nursing aides help patients with vital daily care like personal hygiene, which is critical to physical well being, strength, retention of core abilities, socialization and mental health. According to investigators, there are also inadequate numbers of nursing aides in nursing homes across the nation.
The consequences of staff shortages
Staff shortages is the most common ingredient in neglect of nursing home residents. Problems such as malnourishment, bedsores, depression, and poor hygiene are caused by limited access to nursing aides. Underlying medical conditions may also worsen when there is no registered nurse available at a facility.
Passive and active neglect
The two main categories of nursing home neglect are passive neglect and active neglect. Passive neglect occurs when a patient gets insufficient care and attention. Although passive neglect is often unintentional by the care-giver, it is preventable with appropriate staffing and organization. Thus, the organization that makes the choice to understaff is actively and knowingly putting residents at risk. Additionally, second to the nursing home residents in an under-staffed facility, the few staff are also being abused because they are forced to care for too many people than is possible. They might suffer physical injuries and certainly excessive stress and anxiety when they are left unable to properly care for people in need.
Although rare, active neglect by staff members happens when a staff member knowingly ignores a patient’s needs or outright abuses the patient – sometimes sexually. Some of the worst examples of active neglect and abuse can involve physical harm and exploitation. The ability for such exploitation is a known by-product of corporate understaffing, because exploitive individuals benefit from the fact that there are few witnesses to their crimes.
Nursing home corporations should be held accountable for abuse and neglect
Nursing home corporations make exceptional amounts of money, which is only increased by cutting expenses like proper staffing. Understaffing is no excuse for nursing home neglect and abuse. If a nursing home fails to provide adequate staff to care for its patients, the nursing home must be held liable for the patients’ resulting injuries for two reasons: 1) to ensure compensation to the injured resident and their family, and 2) to deter continued abuse so that fewer families are harmed. If you have a loved one who is not receiving proper care in a nursing home, you may want to consult an attorney about filing a personal injury claim.