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Understaffed Nursing Homes

Moving your elderly parent or vulnerable relative into a nursing home is never an easy decision. You and your family are forced to place a great deal of trust in the hands of the facility. Unfortunately, in far too many cases, Ohio nursing homes fail to live up to their obligation of having enough staff to actually care for their residents properly and the negligence of these understaffed nursing homes in Ohio can lead to all kinds of trauma and abuse.

According to a shocking report from the Plain Dealer, approximately 70 percent of Ohio nursing homes are staffed at a level below what is necessary to provide adequate care. Understaffed facilities is putting the health, safety, and well-being of nursing home patients at risk. You and your family deserve better.

At Tittle & Perlmuter, our nursing home abuse attorneys have extensive experience handling complex nursing home neglect claims. If your vulnerable loved one suffered an injury or death due to the understaffing of a nursing home, please contact our law firm today for immediate legal assistance.

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Which Ohio Nursing Homes are Understaffed?

The state received a “D” grading for how well the state staffs its 960 nursing homes. This is not good news for your loved ones who need long-term care and assistance in a facility. Based on information from Medicare, we created a tool that allows you to see the ranking for staffing levels for every nursing home in Ohio. 

State Law on Nursing Home Staffing

To operate in the state, a nursing home is required to apply for and obtain a license and/or certification from the Ohio Department of Health. Under state law, nursing homes must comply with a wide array of different health and safety regulations. Notably, state law requires that “each nursing home shall have sufficient direct care staff on each shift to meet the needs of the residents in an appropriate and timely manner”.

understaffed nursing homes

The Nursing Home Must Have Licensed Professionals On Duty

A balanced staff is important because nursing home residents in Ohio need comprehensive care. Qualified professionals need to be both on the staff and actually at the facility for a sufficient amount of time each week. Further, under state law, certain professionals must be on-site at all times to provide direct care and services. The staff should include all of the following:

Different members have different roles. For example, the registered nurses will often initially assess residents’ needs and then work alongside LVN/LPNs to implement an appropriate care plan for each individual, while the STNAs will work to help maintain elder health and safety while completing daily activities, which include eating, hygiene, grooming, dressing, and bathroom needs.

State law mandates that all licensed nursing homes have at least one registered nurse on-site for a minimum of five days per week and eight hours per day. During the off-hours, a registered nurse should always be on call and ready to provide immediate assistance. Further, when no registered nurse is present, at least one LPN should always be on-site.

The Nursing Home Must Not Be Understaffed for the Sake of the Residents

Beyond the composition of the staff, there also must be enough total employees on-site. State law requires that “with input from the medical director and the director of nursing, the nursing staff shall adjust the staffing levels based on the needs and acuity levels of the residents, but in no event shall staffing fail to meet the requirements of this rule.” Many studies have shown that a nursing home should provide on average 4.1 hours of care to each resident every day. However, the state only requires 2.5 hours of direct care for each resident on a daily basis.

Understaffed Nursing Homes are Dangerous

It is no secret why so many nursing homes in Ohio are understaffed. Labor is one of the costliest expenses for a nursing home. Unfortunately, many facilities try to get away with cutting staff to boost their profits. This is unacceptable. It puts the health, as well as the safety of nursing home residents at risk. If a nursing home has inadequate staff, the employees who are working will be unable to provide adequate care. Inattention leads to overall neglect and serious mistakes. Nursing home residents are relying on the staff to assist in daily activities; understaffing prevents these individuals from receiving the help they need and deserve.

Signs of Nursing Home Understaffing

What are signs that may indicate a loved one is suffering from nursing home neglect that is a direct result of understaffing at the facility? Our law firm tries to prevent further neglect and abuse from happening by informing the public, especially families of nursing home residents, on warning signs they can look out for.

Nursing home residents may be bedridden or wheelchair-bound, and if they aren’t moved, turned, or repositioned often enough, usually every two hours, they can develop pressure sores. These cause damage to the skin and underlying tissue, which, if left untreated or improperly treated, lead to infection and sometimes death. Bedsores are preventable. However, when nursing homes are short-staffed, they may take shortcuts and avoid the most basic medical protocol – turning their patients. In the Resident’s Rights under the Ohio Laws and Rules, it states that residents have, “the right to adequate and appropriate medical treatment and nursing care.” If your loved developed pressure sores while in the nursing home, odds are this didn’t occur unless the sores were completely unavoidable.

When a facility is understaffed, the employees are overworked and they don’t have time to pay attention to details. This means they could overlook the fact that a resident is not receiving proper attention to take care of their personal hygiene. Staff may make sure to administer medicine and provide meals, but might ignore changing a resident’s clothes, bedding, or taking them to shower. When these simple tasks aren’t taken care of, residents may develop dangerous infections, and negatively impact their dignity.

The main responsibility of nursing home staff is to supervise residents and make sure they receive assistance if they need it. A lack of this supervision may cause residents to wander or elope. This means they’ll get up and walk around the facility or leave the building, risking the safety of the resident. Individuals will exhibit this behavior if they’re experiencing neglect, such as a lack of interaction or not having physical needs met. A nursing home facility should have staff on hand to diligently watch over residents who pose a risk of wandering or eloping. Take a closer look at wandering and elopement in nursing homes.

If a nursing home resident keeps falling or has fall-related injuries, this could indicate that the nursing home staff is neglecting to monitor them appropriately. Many elderly individuals need assistance getting out of bed, going to the bathroom, etc. If staff isn’t checking on them as often enough, residents may try to get up themselves and fall.  When a Cleveland nursing home is understaffed, there may not be enough employees to supervise residents and make sure they don’t fall and injure themselves. If you are concerned about the falls suffered by your loved one in a nursing home, read more about nursing home falls.

If your loved one is losing a lot of weight, this can be an indicator they are experiencing neglect in the form of malnutrition or dehydration. Residents of nursing homes are many times on special diets, or need supervision or assistance while eating. If the nursing home is understaffed, then there may not be anyone to feed that resident at the appropriate time. This is a form of neglect.

Choking incidents are another warning sign that neglect is happening as a result of not having enough staff. Again, if a resident needs assistance or supervision during meals, it is negligent to not have a staff member there to help them eat and ensure their safety. Elderly individuals may develop physical or mental impairment that makes it hard for them to chew or swallow food. In cases such as this, residents should have specialized diet and meal plans to avoid the risk of choking. When there isn’t enough staff to monitor meals, residents may try to eat by themselves, posing a choking risk. Clogged breathing tubes are another risk for choking. Employees overwhelmed by overstaffing may not notice debris clogged in the breathing tube, and residents may choke. Learn more about the risk choking in a nursing home here.

Many nursing home residents require daily medication with very strict guidelines on how to safely take them. Many times the staff needs to administer these medications. However, medication errors can happen if a facility is understaffed. Employees either don’t have enough time or are too distracted to properly provide medication to a resident. Types of medication errors that can happen in a nursing home include: flat out giving the wrong medication, forgetting a dose, giving too much of a dose, ignoring medication orders, etc. Understaffing endangers the lives of residents because it can directly impact their ability to receive needed treatment.

Many times residents may not be able to report these forms of neglect that stem directly from understaffing. They are either scared, embarrassed, or physically or cognitively unable to report neglect. It’s vital for family members to know what warning signs to look for and report if anything doesn’t seem right. If you aren’t sure if there’s an understaffing problem, contact one of our experienced nursing home neglect and abuse lawyers. They can help determine if your loved one is in a dangerous environment.

Understaffing Causes Stressed and Overworked Employees

How does understaffing cause nursing home abuse and neglect? Imagine this scenario: there are only three registered nurses on a shift. However, there are approximately 60 residents who need taken care of; all of which may need assistance with taking medication, going to the bathroom, or have acute medical needs. There would be no way for these employees to provide 2.5 hours of direct care for each resident. For that to happen, the facility would need more than 12 people on staff, each working 12-hour shifts.

Understaffing causes employees to become overwhelmed with a daunting amount of residents to tend to effectively. Many suffer from exhaustion while working through their designated break times and experiencing mandatory overtime. Simply put, tasks slip through the cracks and neglect, abuse, and even wrongful death can happen as a tragic result.

Compensation Available for Victims of Nursing Home Understaffing

Under Ohio law, victims of nursing home neglect are entitled to recover compensation for their damages. If you can prove that your loved one’s nursing home was understaffed and that they suffered damages due to the understaffing, then your loved one is entitled to financial compensation, or, in the case of wrongful death, the family. Nursing home neglect claims are notoriously complex. To recover fair compensation, victims should consult with a qualified Cleveland nursing home abuse and neglect attorney. Our attorneys can help you seek compensation for:

Filing An Understaffed Nursing Home Claim

At Tittle & Perlmuter, our top-rated nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys have extensive experience handling understaffed care facility claims. If your family member suffered an injury due to the inadequate care they receive at an understaffed nursing home, we can help. Our legal team is ready to listen to your case and advise you on the best course of action.

To schedule your free, no-obligation case evaluation, please call us today or fill out our online contact form. We will always promptly respond to your inquiry.