Issues With Overworked Staff in Nursing Homes

Monday, September 19, 2022

Issues With Overworked Staff in Nursing Homes

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

Nursing homes are facilities where the residents should be able to expect the utmost in compassionate care. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case, especially when a nursing home has too few staff members on hand.

overworked staff in nurse home

When nursing home employees have long hours or a lot of residents to look after, they may become stressed out or just plain too busy—and in a nursing home, that can lead to serious problems, such as:

Medication Errors

Medication errors can happen all too frequently when a nursing home employee is overworked. They may look at the wrong chart for a patient and give the wrong medication or dose out the wrong amount of a prescription for someone. They may also simply forget or not have time to get to a resident’s required dosage. These errors can have significant consequences, from drug interactions, to sickness or even death. Being overworked, though unfortunate, is not an excuse for someone suffering from a medication error. If you or someone you care about has been the victim of a medication error in a nursing home, contact a nursing home neglect lawyer for help.

Bed Sores

Bed sores are painful infections that are a result of a resident in a nursing home or hospital being ignored. They are caused by nursing home staff not attending to a patient often enough—pressure ulcers, as they are also known, happen when a person is laying in one position for too long. They can become infected and cause serious problems and even death if left untreated. If you know someone who has bed sores, they are a clear indication that nursing home neglect is present. You should contact a nursing home abuse attorney and file a report against the nursing home as well if this is happening.

Verbal Abuse

As previously mentioned, an overworked staff can become easily stressed out. We’ve likely all been there in our own jobs, however medical professionals are required to maintain a level of compassionate care at all times in spite of high stress levels. That’s not always the case, however, and an employee may take their bad day out on a nursing home resident. This type of abusive behavior should not be tolerated, and nursing staff should be held accountable for their actions. Contacting a nursing home abuse lawyer for advice and help in this situation is the best first step you can take to rectify the problem.

Why are Nursing Homes Understaffed?

According to a recent survey conducted by the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), 87% of nursing home providers are facing moderate to severe staffing shortages. Due to this shortage, 6 out of 10 nursing home facilities are now placing a limit on new patients.

Only exacerbating the matter, nursing home providers are unable to find licensed registered nurses to tend to residents’ medical needs. Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and nursing aides (NAs) are also in short supply, causing neglect in nursing homes across the nation.

Demands of Being a Frontline Worker in a Nursing Home

The public does not realize the physical demands of being a frontline worker in a nursing home facility. Nursing home staff carry the responsibility of lifting patients out of bed, cleaning up vomit and diarrhea, and assisting them at the toilet.

With such severe staffing shortages, workers are expected to oversee the needs of many residents, sometimes as many as twenty-five, on a given day. Accordingly, workers are unable to tend to residents’ well-being and spend valuable one-on-one time with them. Understandably, workers are feeling that they are not providing the best care to elderly residents.

Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic

Nursing aides have taken on more stressful roles as a result of the pandemic. The duties of a nursing aide are critical for the health of patients. Daily tasks include feeding residents, dispensing medications, and escorting them outside for fresh air. Even being down one nursing aide takes a toll on the other nursing staff. As a result, nursing aides have to work overtime to care for the additional residents that are on their service.

Since nursing homes have always had issues with understaffing, the pandemic has only intensified the issue. Nursing aides have taken on double shifts, continue to work overtime, and even forgo vacation time to pick up the slack. As a result of burnout, many nursing aides and other long-term care staff have quit.

When a nursing home facility is understaffed, patients suffer both physically and emotionally. A facility with minimal staff will be unable to turn bed-ridden patients, help those who need assistance moving, and monitor food and water intake. Additionally, there is not enough time to check on how patients are coping emotionally.

With so little staff, if a resident needs to use the bathroom but there is no one to help them, a patient may fall trying to make it to the toilet on their own. Staff inattention can also cause a resident to suffer from malnutrition or dehydration. Of even greater concern, with nursing staff fatigued, a misdiagnosis may occur and wrong medications may be dispensed.

Nursing homes have lost roughly 240,000 caregivers since the beginning of the pandemic. While other health care sectors recovered in the past year or so, nursing homes still suffer from shortages.

Labor Costs

With high labor costs and staffing shortages, nursing homes are unable to take on patients who need long-term care. Pandemic-related safety measures have increased labor costs significantly. Staff are now required to mask everybody, clean materials, and wear personal protection equipment (PPE).

With the risk of COVID-19, many families pulled their loved ones out of nursing home facilities, causing these establishments to suffer further financially. With a lack of revenue and an increase in expenses, many nursing homes cannot afford to be adequately staffed.

Private equity firms are now acquiring nurse homes, only worsening the issue of understaffing. These firms buy homes with the main goal of improving efficiency and profits. They trim down on staff and excess costs, only at the expense of residents. Nursing staff is usually the first to be cut down. With fewer nurses on staff, residents are bathed less, develop more bed sores from not being turned regularly, and are hospitalized more often. Medication errors are becoming commonplace, resulting in an increase in deaths.

According to a federal report, private equity firms now own eleven-percent of nursing homes. With the goal of increased profits, these firms are trying to bring costs below what Medicare and Medicaid is willing to pay. The quality of patient care is deteriorating rapidly.

Filing an Elder Abuse Claim

If you suspect abuse of a nursing home facility resident, you can report the abuse without facing any civil liability, as long as you are acting in good faith. In Illinois, you can call the Department of Public Health’s Nursing Home Hotline to file a report.

The reporter should be able and willing to answer the following questions:

  • The alleged victim’s name, address, telephone number, sex, age, and general condition;
  • The alleged abuser’s name, sex, age, relationship to the victim, and condition;
  • The circumstances which lead the reporter to believe that the adult age 60 or older or person with disabilities age 18-59 is being abused, neglected, or financially exploited, with as much specificity as possible;
  • Whether the alleged victim is in immediate danger, the best time to contact the person, if he or she knows of the report, and if there is any danger to the case worker going out to investigate;
  • Whether the reporter believes the client could make a report themselves;
  • The name, telephone number, and profession of the reporter;
  • The names of others with information about the situation;
  • If the reporter is willing to be contacted again; and,
  • Any other relevant information.

In Illinois, you have two years from the occurrence of an abuse injury or resulting death to file a lawsuit against a nursing home facility. This time frame is known as a statute of limitations. A statute of limitations restricts the amount of time someone has to begin legal proceedings. If you want to initiate a lawsuit, you will need to file your claim within two years from the neglect or abuse incident.

How Can an Attorney Help?

Winning a nursing home lawsuit can help families by:

  • Preventing further abuse from taking place
  • Gaining compensation to allow the elderly person to receive necessary medical treatments
  • Hold nursing home providers accountable for their actions

If someone you love has suffered from neglect in a care facility, you should contact a nursing home abuse lawyer. A seasoned attorney can evaluate your case and guide you through the steps of litigation.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

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