Anyone who has relocated an elderly loved one to a nursing home knows the emotional strain it can put on the family. Even if you do all the research, doubts can still linger about getting the proper care for your loved one while you’re away. Now, recent discoveries indicate that such worries about neglect occurring in nursing homes may not be unfounded.
An investigation conducted by the New York Times and Kaiser Health News reveals that 1,400 nursing homes across the nation are understaffed, having fewer registered nurses than required by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). By analyzing the payroll records of these homes, the reviewers found that many had days where they did not report having a registered nurse on duty for at least 8 hours.
Furthermore, when looking at the records for nursing assistants, it was discovered that the time spent working by these aides was inconsistent, especially on weekends. Nursing aides provide an essential complement to the services of registered nurses, doing the work of helping residents bathe, eat and take care of other daily activities.
Low staffing levels are nothing new. According to a 2016 report on the need for higher staffing levels in nursing homes, “Many U.S. facilities have dangerously low staffing.” Going even further back, reporting on the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, AARP says that multiple government hearings and reports have concluded that low staffing of qualified nurse aids has led to increased risk of neglect and abuse, including bed sores, significant weight loss and hospitalization to treat avoidable causes.
We also have evidence of widespread abuse cases, but it’s important to know the difference between nursing home abuse and neglect. Neglect can be divided into two categories: active and passive. Passive neglect can result in such things as poor hygiene, bed sores, weight loss and general signs of malnourishment, while active neglect can manifest as ignoring calls for help and failing to provide emotional support.
Active neglect and outright abuse, in other words, can be one and the same. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, look for the signs of neglect or abuse. The more egregious examples include physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, and financial exploitation. While it can be hard to detect, some staff may even try to exploit the elderly by getting their credit card information or even trying to talk them into changing their will.
Consult the Medicare and Medicaid directory and check out the ratings of nursing homes. Medicare.gov uses a five-star rating, and nursing homes that have been found to be lacking in adequate staffing levels have now received a one-star rating.
When evaluating nursing homes, take a close look at their weekend staffing levels. The data shows that nursing homes report an 11 percent reduction in registered nursing staff and an 8 percent reduction in nursing aides over the weekends. If you suspect a nursing home of committing these offenses, seek legal counsel.