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Understaffing of Nursing Homes is Finally Being Discussed

Stan Hugo Beechtree

"It's Almost Like a Ghost Town" Most Nursing Homes Overstated Staffing

There is a point when it is harder to live on our own. Our health deteriorates and we cannot take care of ourselves. Our families also don’t know how to take care of us so we wind up in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. We put so much trust in these facilities to take care of our loved ones. You expect the best for them. But sometimes that is simply not the case. In a recent article by the New York Times, it reports that something bad is going on in American nursing homes.

Overstated Staffing

There is a general requirement that a registered nurse must be on-call at all hours at a nursing home. They are the only ones that are certified to give out intravenous medications, assess patient needs, and an array of other tasks. According to reports, there are frequent and significant fluctuations in staffing. There are significant shortfalls of staffing on weekends especially. How do we know this? As required by the Affordable Care Act, Medicare must obtain and publish daily payrolls from the 14,000 nursing homes in the United States. These records are obtained from the payroll records provided by the homes themselves. These homes modify the payroll to show there was more staff at a particular time than there actually was. The government rates these homes on a five-star rating system. This is flawed because it is based on the information the nursing homes provide.

Perfect Example

In Ithaca, New York, there is the Beechtree Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing. Jay Vandemark is a patient at Beechtree. He had a stroke about a year ago and has been in the facility since then. Jay says, “…he often roams the halls looking for an aide not already swamped with work when he needs help putting on his shirt.”   Even the simplest of tasks require more than one person to do. About 1.4 million people in the United States that need care are in these facilities. When the nursing or rehabilitation homes are short on staff, the staff must scramble to do basic tasks. They can’t check on patients that are bedridden who need to be repositioned to avoid bed sores. Oftentimes these bedsores lead to prolonged hospitalizations, significant pain, and even death—bedsores are avoidable, if only the facilities properly hire enough staff to do the job.

At Beechtree, when it was best staffed there were eight patients to one nursing aide. However, on the worst staffed days there were 18 patients to one aide. There is no need to say how or why this is ridiculous. How can people be expected to take care of 18 patients alone? There is simply not enough time.

Why is This a Problem?

We do not have to go into too much depth about why this is a problem. People in nursing homes or in assisted living facilities are there for a reason. They can’t live on their own and they need assistance at all hours of the day. What is being done at these nursing homes shows that, the facilities are more interested in scrimping of providing enough staff to do the job and the residents pay the price.

Has There Been a Solution?

In April, it was decided that instead of relying on the homes to send them their payrolls, the government will collect daily payrolls. This is supposed to catch the discrepancies in payroll and how many people are staffed in the facility. According to the new method, seven out of ten nursing homes had lower staffing than previously reported. That is a 12% average decrease across the board. Since 2014, health inspectors have noticed that one in every eight nursing homes are understaffed.

The Family Committee

Now back to Beechtree. In 2017, a group of family members of people staying at Beechtree formed a committee to improve the standards of the facility. Mr. Camerota, chief operating officer of Upstate Services Group, said that Beechtree has made strides to listen to the committee’s grievances to improve the standard of care. Mr. Hugo, one leader of this committee, agreed that staffing during the day increased but the weekend and night time staff were still too low.

Need of Change

This needs to change. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are the last place many people have to go. There needs to be more accountability and more people need to be aware that this is happening all over the country. There are other major stories in the news getting more traction than this but this story needs to come out. Share, comment and like this article so more people know what is going on. You want these places to be safe and so do we.

Our information source is cited in the article.  If you were involved in this incident or a similar incident and have questions about your rights and options, call usor another reputable law firm. 

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