Choosing a nursing home or assisted living facility to care for an elderly
loved one is one of the most difficult decision processes families must
make. In order to make this process easier, and to help families find
qualified providers whom they can and should be able to trust, the Centers
for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provides on online service that
rates nursing homes across the country. Unfortunately, recent findings
about over reported staffing numbers at U.S. nursing homes have called
the accuracy of those ratings into question, and have revealed some alarming
practices that put residents at risk.
According to a recent investigation into staffing rates at U.S. nursing
homes, most facilities overstated the size of their staff, and also reported
misleading information that painted an incomplete picture of when qualified
and licensed employees were and were not on duty. Here are a few important
findings from that review:
- Nursing homes in the U.S. are required by law to report the numbers of
caretakers, nurses, and other employees they employ and have on duty to
the federal government. However, because those numbers were self-reported
and because there were no systems in place to check their accuracy, most
nursing homes across the country inflated the size of their staff in order
to game the CMS’s five-star rating system.
- Aside from showing sharp declines in the number of staff on duty during
nights and weekends, the investigation into payroll records also indicated
that numerous nursing facilities often failed to have a sufficient staff-to-resident
ratio. For example, one facility which received the highest CMS ratings
was found to have a ratio of one aide for every resident on its best staffed
days, and just a 1-to-18 ratio on its worst.
- In addition to low staffing among aides and caretakers, man facilities
also displayed low and varying rates of the number of nurses on duty.
How Staffing Problems Can Lead to Nursing Home Injuries
Nursing homes have a legal obligation to provide acceptable care and treatment
to their residents. One important way to achieve this is by ensuring there
is a sufficient number of staff on duty, and that there are also enough
qualified and licensed medical professionals (including licensed nurses)
who can administer needed medical care and respond to any emergencies.
Unfortunately, not all nursing homes uphold their obligation to ensure
the safety of residents through appropriate staffing – a negligent
or sometimes intentional act that can substantially increase risks among
patients. For example, there are a number of ways poor staffing can lead
to resident harm:
- Understaffed nursing homes can create more work for nurses and caretakers.
When they lack the time and ability to take on additional tasks, they
pose risks that residents will not receive the care or attention they
need, including specialized medical treatment.
- More work and too few staff is of particular concern when it comes to medical
care. This not only includes ensuring that residents with medical issues
receive the medications or treatment plans they require, but also that
any emergencies may not be handled in a timely or appropriate manner.
Additionally, it may lead to untrained staff performing medical duties
that should be performed by nurses or doctors.
- Inadequate staffing can increase risks of neglect among patients, especially
when there are gaps in staff on duty during certain times of the week
(though patient needs remain the same throughout the week), delays in
responding to emergencies, and a general lack of caring for patients by
providing essential daily necessities. This can lead to dehydration and
malnutrition, bed sores, and more.
- Understaffing can also increase risks of nursing home abuse, as overworked
staff may be more likely to physically or emotionally abuse residents
due to stress and fatigue, or be less likely to identify possible warning
signs of abuse between other staff and residents or among residents themselves.
While these concerns are extremely alarming, the recent investigation has
led to federal government intervention. In fact, CMS officials have announced
that they have re-evaluated nursing home staffing based on payroll data,
and have readjusted ratings to better reflect the true state of affairs.
As such, anyone considering a nursing home for themselves or their loved
ones, as well as those who already have a loved one living in such a facility,
should explore Medicare’s new ratings to ensure their family member
will receive, or is currently receiving, the sufficient care they need.
Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Lawsuits: Protect Your Rights
At Montee Law Firm, our Kansas City personal injury lawyers have experience
protecting the rights of individuals and families who suffer preventable
harm, including preventable injuries or deaths that occur in nursing homes.
When representing victims of
nursing home abuse or neglect, our team focuses on exploring how nursing facilities and staff failed
to meet the duty of care they owed residents, and on illustrating how
those failures led to preventable injuries and losses. By leveraging our
experience, we then work to protect the rights of family as they pursue
civil lawsuits, justice, and a financial recovery of their economic and
If you have questions about a potential nursing home injury case, please
do not hesitate to
contact our firm for a FREE and confidential consultation. Montee Law Firm proudly serves
clients throughout Missouri and Kansas, and is available to offer weekend,
evening, hospital, and in-home appointments.