When a nursing home is understaffed, patients have a higher risk of getting neglected. Studies show that patients in understaffed nursing homes have a higher risk of weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, pneumonia, infections and bedsores. When there is not enough staff, nursing home patients do not get proper attention and as a result neglect and medical errors can occur. Additionally working conditions in understaffed nursing homes are difficult. Nursing homes who are trying to minimize their costs are not hiring as many registered nurses and certified nurse assistants as they should and stretch the existing staff as much as they can. Stressed and overworked workers get frustrated and that’s when nursing home patient abuse has the highest risk to occur.
It is estimated that approximately 90% of nursing homes are understaffed in the US. Many nursing homes do not have any registered nurse available for days. In an effort to crack down on this problem, Medicare recently revised its five stars ranking system and automatically downgraded to one star the staffing ranking section of all nursing homes that do not have a registered nurse on site for four or more days instead of 7 or more days in the previous ranking. As a result 1638 nursing homes in the US now have a one star rating for their staffing.
The change in the staffing comes in the aftermath of a decision by the government last year to require nursing homes to submit payroll records to verify staff level. While analyzing the records, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services became alarmed by the frequency of under staffing of registered nurses. Registered nurses are the most qualified nurses. When staffing level increases so does the quality of care.