Understaffing is a significant issue in nursing homes across Illinois and the nation. There are many reasons for understaffing, ranging from costs to high staff turnover rates. And now, Illinois lawmakers are working to increase the consequences nursing homes face for understaffing.
Higher penalties may motivate nursing homes to make a change since understaffing has some of the most notable effects on nursing home abuse rates. Here is a summary of the damages understaffing causes.
Lack of staff means a lack of adequate care
Families who entrust their elderly loved ones into the care of nursing homes expect their loved ones to receive quality treatment and support. And just like any other medical professional, nursing home staff members must meet a high standard of patient care.
Not many Illinois nursing homes are meeting that standard. When there are not enough people on staff, it is not possible to meet every resident's needs.
The Chicago Tribune article states that lawmakers want to raise the consequences for understaffing to combat nursing home neglect as well as widespread incidents of:
- Sepsis and other infections
- Severe falls and broken bones
- Bed sores
- Filthy conditions
These problems are prevalent throughout the state. The article also reports that federal regulations recommend each resident receives around four hours of care daily. At the moment in Illinois, many residents do not even receive two hours.
Stresses on staff lead to dangers for residents
When the staff is stretched thin, many nursing homes keep staff members working overtime. The stress from overtime work can put staff on edge, and they might lash out at the residents themselves.
Stressed staff seeking to reduce that strain can lead to two primary dangers for nursing home residents:
- A higher chance of physical abuse, including using restraints.
- A higher chance of mistakes or purposeful errors in specific treatment and medications.
However, stress is not an excuse for nursing home abuse. There is no excuse for abuse and breaching a family's trust. And families have a right to compensation for any incident of abuse or neglect their loved one experiences in a nursing home.
Understaffing may not always be evident to visiting family members, but the effects on loved ones are clear. The new bill for reform is not law yet. However, it has called attention to a troubling issue. And there is hope that it could motivate a reform movement to eliminate the neglect of nursing home residents.