Understaffing and Abuse in Nursing Homes

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Nursing homes are responsible for providing care for patients and preventing injuries. Unfortunately, however, almost 90 percent of nursing homes are understaffed, a condition that often leads to neglect and abuse of vulnerable patients.

A 2018 analysis of payroll data submitted to Medicare shows that most nursing homes actually had far fewer nurses and other staff available for caring for patients than they had ever reported to the government.  In addition, there are significant changes in the number of care-taking staff available each day, with weekends being particularly low.  On these low days, staff members have to care for twice the number of patients as they do on those days when their facility is fully staffed.

Research shows that not having an adequate number of staff at a nursing home facility can lead to neglect and abuse.  The ratio of staff nurses to nursing home residents has actually been shown to affect both the quality of care at a facility and the health outcomes for its patients.
 

Florida Nursing Home Care

In Florida, an estimated 73,000 people reside in nursing homes. With 683 licensed nursing homes and approximately 83,587 beds, the ratio of the state’s over-65 population to its nursing home population is well below the national average.  That does not mean, however, that Florida’s nursing home residents are immune to neglect and abuse.

Whether due to understaffing, lack of training, or other stressors, Florida nursing home staff often mistreat residents.  This mistreatment can include abuse and neglect, such as hitting, pushing and other physically abusive acts or neglecting to provide necessary care and treatment.
 

Florida Nursing Home Laws and Regulations

The Florida Department of Health stipulates that nursing homes have experienced staff and qualified healthcare practitioners.  At least one qualified physician, dietician, and nurse should be available. In addition, all staff must pass a criminal background check.

Florida law also presents a set of basic rights for nursing home residents.  According to Florida law, nursing homes must maintain a safe, clean environment.  Patients are supposed to have access to clean drinking water, hot water, adequate lighting, comfortable temperatures, and safety equipment.

Nursing home residents also have a right to independent decision-making.  In other words, staff can’t force them to do things they don’t want to do.  Instead, nursing home staff should encourage and support the people in their care to make their own decisions as much as possible.
 

Federal Oversight of Nursing Homes

Following the 2018 analysis of payroll-based staffing data, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) initiated oversight activities to motivate nursing homes to provide adequate staffing and high quality care.  CMS will be sharing data with states on staffing issues and the availability of registered nurses at facilities; establishing procedures on reporting staff hours; and giving nursing homes new tools for accurately reporting the number of residents.

While the CMS is taking steps to address the issues of understaffing and not having registered nurses onsite, the fact remains that too many nursing home residents do not get high quality care.  Their health and safety are endangered every day due to neglect and/or abuse.
 

Contact an Experienced Florida Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

If one of your family members is suffering because of nursing home abuse or neglect, please don’t hesitate to call the experienced Florida nursing home abuse attorneys at Malik Law.  We can help you understand your family member’s rights and take action to help your loved one during this time of need.

 

Sources:

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  (30 Nov. 2018).  CMS strengthens nursing home oversight and safety to ensure adequate staffing.
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Florida Health Care Association.  (2017). Facts about long term care in Florida. 
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Rau, J. (2018 July 7).  “It’s almost like a ghost town.”  Most nursing homes overstated staffing for years.  New York Times.

Imran Malik
Imran Malik
Imran Malik, rated AV® Preeminent, by Martindale-Hubbell, is the founding member of Malik Law P.A. An AV® Rating signifies that a lawyer has reached the heights of professional excellence. He has practiced law for a number of years, and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity by fellow attorneys in his area of practice. Martindale-Hubbell is the oldest and most trusted lawyer information service in America.