Alabama is coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with vaccinations up and cases down, nursing home residents are safer from the novel coronavirus now than they’ve been at any point since the pandemic started. However, the pandemic has also exposed a critical weakness in the nursing home system: understaffing.
This is not a new issue, as any nursing home abuse and neglect attorney can tell you. It has been a chronic problem in the industry for many years. However, in a tough labor market, as Alabama workers’ priorities shift, it has become more difficult than ever for senior living facilities to find adequate staff.
Too often, in an understaffed facility, it’s residents who suffer.
The Role Of Understaffing In Nursing Home Neglect
Caring for nursing home residents is labor-intensive work. Residents need to be served meals and monitored when eating, given all their medications at the right time, bathed, changed, and otherwise provided with hands-on care. In an understaffed facility, there simply aren’t enough hands to get all this work done, leading to neglect.
In our practice, we’ve seen residents who developed infections because they weren’t being bathed, changed, or turned in bed. We’ve seen cases of malnutrition because residents weren’t monitored without eating and injuries that went untreated because no one was checking on the residents’ health. The consequences of such negligence can be severe, even fatal.
Just as importantly, facilities without enough staff tend to allow the physical space itself to fall into disrepair. Dim lighting and trip hazards can lead to falls and broken bones. Security, too, may be allowed to lapse, which can lead to visitor-on-resident or resident-on-resident abuse.
Abuse Can Also Fester In Understaffed Nursing Homes
While most nursing home staff genuinely have the interests of residents at heart, there are some who do residents harm – and in an understaffed facility, it is much easier for an abusive staff member to fly under the radar. Facilities that are desperate for employees may cut corners in the hiring process, failing to conduct background checks or ignoring red flags. Staff may not be supervised or monitored well, allowing them to harm residents without consequences.
In the dysfunctional environment of an understaffed facility, with high turnover and stressed-out staff members constantly on edge, residents’ health and safety are at risk. Even in a difficult labor market, there is no excuse for nursing homes to cut corners on resident care. Under both Alabama and federal law, they need sufficient staff to take care of our elders, and if they don’t, they need to be held accountable.
If your loved one has been harmed in a nursing home, understaffed or otherwise, then your family has legal recourse. We can help. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer at Braswell Murphy, LLC.