One of the primary factors present in nursing home neglect and abuse cases is the chronic understaffing of the facility. It can be challenging to understand the scope of the problem, however, without oversight.
There were already critical shortages of healthcare workers throughout 2020, when 18% of nursing facilities across the country were understaffed. This number went up to 22% in 2021, and now, one in four nursing home facilities face critical nursing shortages. Understaffing, unfortunately, leads to higher incidents of medical error, staff burnout and patient morbidity.
How understaffing leads to elder abuse
The issue of understaffing at long-term care facilities often causes an increase in overtime for staff members. Although this can be a welcome benefit for those who need the extra work, it also creates a vicious backlash of exhaustion, frustration and lack of supervision that often manifests in the mistreatment of residents. When elder abuse is present, it is most commonly the result of:
- Burnout, resulting in verbal or physical abuse.
- Greed, when staff members actively seek to steal financial assets from an elderly ward.
- Lack of supervision, leading to neglect that can last for hours or days during which the resident is not receiving necessary care.
- Understaffing, which lowers the quality of care to residents.
- Corporate decisions, which are profit-driven, can lead to hiring undertrained or inexperienced staff who are more likely to abuse the elderly with no oversight to keep them in check.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1.3 million elderly people were in a nursing home in 2015, and this number, including those also needing in-home aides or other long-term care, may rise to 27 million by 2050.
Spotting nursing home abuse
Families in California want the best possible care for their elderly loved ones, and often go to great lengths to find a facility that has a reputation for excellence and quality of care. Unfortunately, they cannot be there all the time. It is important to know what to look for if you suspect that your loved one has become a victim of abuse. Some of the signs include:
- A sudden change in behavior such as emotional withdrawal, fear, anxiety, or depression.
- Complaints about staff members.
- Appearance of malnutrition or dehydration.
- Unexplained cuts, bruises, broken bones, or an unexpected fall.
Sacramento residents who worry that their elderly family member is suffering from abuse or neglect must take immediate action to uncover the facts and take the appropriate legal action.