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What happens when nursing homes are understaffed

It is never easy to accept the fact that one of your parents may be better off living in an assisted living facility. Having full confidence in the facility you and your loved one choose can soften the blow, but regrettably, many American nursing homes and continuing care facilities fail to maintain adequate staff.

When nursing homes are understaffed and their workers are stretched too thin, the quality of care your loved one will receive is likely to suffer. 

What is behind the understaffing issue?

In some cases, nursing homes choose not to hire enough employees for no reason other than to increase a facility’s profits. Often, nursing homes have a hard time holding on to quality doctors and nurses, both because they often struggle to pay as much as hospitals and traditional doctor’s offices, and because of the inherently high-stress nature of the job.

Once an understaffing issue begins to develop, it can also start something of a domino effect. Without sufficient staff, employees have no choice other than to pick up extra tasks and duties, and this can lead to bitterness and irritation, which in turn can lead even more staff members to quit.

Repercussions associated with understaffing

When there are not enough staff members available to cater to patient needs, the overall quality of care your loved one will receive tends to suffer. In some cases, patients who are largely immobile are among those who suffer most because these residents depend on staff to feed them, clothe them, bathe them and so on. If your loved one does not get enough motion or exercise, bed sores and muscle atrophy can develop.

When nursing home staff members are overtired, they also become more likely to make mistakes or lash out at patients. For example, nurses trying to do too much may mistakenly administer the wrong medication, or the wrong dose of the right medication.

These are just some of the problems that result from understaffed nursing homes. If you have concerns about the quality of care your loved one is receiving, speak up.

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