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Nursing Home Negligence Often Stems from Under-staffing

In many cases, harm inflicted upon nursing home patients doesn’t happen because staffers are evil or harbor ill will toward residents.

In fact, our Port St. Lucie nursing home abuse lawyers believe that in most cases, staffers started out in their careers with a desire to help people.

But these workers are grappling with work environments that are increasingly a challenge, particularly as a result of privatization which can lead to understaffing, long hours, low pay and a management system that offers little guidance or oversight.

Of course, this does not excuse negligence and it certainly is not an excuse for abusive behavior. But it may help us to explain it, which in turn might help us to address it.

Take, for example, the case of a licensed practical nurse in suburban New York who is facing numerous misdemeanor charges – bumped down from felonies – for reportedly neglecting to give residents their medications and then falsifying documents indicating that she had administered the drugs.

Make no mistake – this was a potentially fatal error on her part, and should without question be addressed and punished.

But her criminal defense lawyer has an interesting take on the matter. He indicates that having been in the elder care field for more than a decade, she did care about her patients. However, she was burdened by the conditions in a facility that was going through the process of privatization, had undergone a mass exodus of regular staffers and management that was thoroughly disorganized.

In fact, less than a year earlier, inspectors with the state’s health department had cited the facility for violations that included having bloodied rags in the kitchen and medications that were administered to the wrong patients.

So while, yes, this one staffer certainly needs to be held accountable for her negligence, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that it likely occurred as part of a larger problem – one that is present in facilities across the country.

As one aging ombudsman was quoted as saying, some of these nurses might have an entire wing of patients to themselves. Granted, these aren’t intensive care unit patients, but they do require around-the-clock care, and it’s simply too much to ask one person to handle.

The buck truly stops with the nursing home facilities who overburden staffers with unrealistic responsibilities, without providing them the tools that would allow them to offer minimum standards of care to residents. It doesn’t help that certified nursing assistants are only paid about $10 an hour.

In 2010, federal officials testified before Congress that about 7 percent of complaints made to aging ombudsmans at the state and county level concerned provable case of neglect and abuse.

A 2011 study conducted in New York found that actual abuse rates are about 24 percent higher than what is reported to authorities. There are approximately 3.2 million people currently living in nursing homes nationwide.

Research has repeatedly borne out the theory that nursing homes tend to have more deficiencies because they often fail to expend as many resources on staffing and training.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Watching out for nursing home abuse, neglect, May 18, 2013, By Jon Alexander, Post Star

More Blog Entries:
Lauderdale Lakes Nursing Home Lawyers Troubled by Abuse Footage, May 19, 2013, Port St. Lucie Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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