Skip to Main Content

3 ways understaffing endangers nursing home residents

The number of staff members working at a nursing home has a direct impact on the quality of life of its residents. The ratio of workers to residents is so important that there are regulations mandating minimum levels of staff for the safety of the people living in nursing homes.

Unfortunately, many organizations running nursing homes are for-profit businesses that want to keep their costs as low as possible. They will hire workers who accept the lowest pay possible and will push to schedule the fewest hours they can. Chronic understaffing is a known, ongoing health and safety concern in the nursing home industry that has a strong correlation with instances of abuse and neglect.

1. Understaffing increases the risk of infection and infestation

The more people who live in a nursing home, the faster infestations of human pests can spread. Lice, scabies, and bed bugs may spread rapidly through a nursing home because staff members do not have enough time to clean or provide care for residents, let alone adequately sanitize while traveling in between patient rooms. The same issues can also lead to the rapid spreading of infections among residents.

2. Inadequate staff rates increase fall risks

When there aren’t enough workers around to help residents get where they need to go and complete basic tasks, those nursing home residents may try to handle things without support but they should not.

Many nursing home residents fall each year, and a good portion of them may have resulted from inadequate staff and long wait times to get dressed or go to the bathroom. When there aren’t enough staff members present to meet everyone’s needs on time, some residents will try to handle things on their own.

3. Medical issues go undiagnosed and untreated

Bedsores often start as small, red spots on the skin. If a nursing home were to proactively monitor its residents for warning signs of bedsores and provide all of them with frequent exercise and support, their risk of bedsores developing or worsening past the initial stage would significantly drop.

Unfortunately, nursing home workers often overlook bedsores until they reach an advanced stage and pose a risk of infection. They may also overlook signs of accelerating cognitive decline or other health issues until an individual’s condition worsens noticeably.

Family members often feel horrified to learn that the staff at a nursing home didn’t take proper care of their loved ones. Connecting understaffing with practical consequences could help people spot early warning signs of nursing home neglect at the facility where a loved one lives.