Understaffing Cited as a Major Source of California Nursing Home Abuse

old%20person.jpgAccording to a recent report by All Voices, understaffing is a prevalent problem in local nursing homes. Our San Diego nursing home abuse attorneys know that understaffing at Southern California nursing homes is a serious issue because it has consistently been shown to lead to increased instances of elder abuse or neglect. For example, at facilities where there is understaffing, caretakers may become frustrated and impatient with residents who need extra care and attention. When nursing home employees are overworked due to understaffing, residents often face a higher risk of injuries—e.g. from wandering or falls—due to inadequate supervision.

The latest report listed California as one of the states with the highest rate of elder abuse. Approximately 33% of nursing homes have been reported for abuse. According to the report, 89% of those abused in nursing homes never report their abuse. Tragically, per the reasonable standards laid out by a variety of organization, a tragic 90% of nursing homes do not have adequate staffing. Clearly, it is a problem that can have serious implications for California nursing home residents and their loved ones. Specifically, understaffing can lead to many significant problems, including: low staff to patient ratios, under training, high levels of staff stress and burnout, high staff turnover, false charting, and under- or over-medication.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s 2004 report on nursing homes, the current nursing staff to patient ratio is 1 nursing staff member for every 1.64 residents. Low staff-to-patient ratios mean that employees must undertake too many tasks, so there is not enough time for staff members to spend adequate time with residents. The result is that the amount of time recommended per day for staff to spend with residents is not being met. For example, the federal government suggests that staff members should spend 3.45 hours per day with a resident. Nursing home experts recommend even more face time with staff at 4 hours per day. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently proposed requiring nursing home aides to spend a minimum of 2 hours per day with each resident, but 53% of nursing homes presently do not meet this standard.

Another serious effect of understaffing is that nursing home staff may be undertrained. Since staff-to-patient ratios are often so low, employees are frequently faced with completing tasks that they have not been trained to perform. Our Orange County elder abuse lawyers previously explained that facilities where staff members feel supported and well trained also report better rates of satisfaction from their residents. When understaffing occurs, however, nursing home employees usually experience high levels of stress and burnout, which frequently leads to high rates of staff turnover. Staff turnover disrupts patient care and also contributes to the problem of inadequate training. If staff members are stressed out and burnt out, they can lose compassion and respect for their residents, which can lead to California elder abuse.


At the Walton Law Firm, we know that your loved ones deserve the best medical care and attention possible. Our lawyers have successfully litigated many San Diego nursing home abuse lawsuits. If you are concerned that an elderly family member or friend is being neglected or abused, please contact a qualified legal professional to find out more about your rights.

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