Nursing Home Staff Shortages Lead to Elder Neglect in South Carolina
Charleston Area Nursing Home Staffing Issues Made Worse by Covid-19 Crisis
The decision of where to place an aging loved one who can no longer care for themselves is certainly a challenging one. However, it is also a choice that an increasing number of people must make. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 15,500 nursing homes in the country, providing care to more than 1.3 million residents. The United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates that someone who turns 65 today has nearly a 70 percent chance of needing long-term care.
Most nursing homes hire qualified staff members who genuinely care about residents. However, working in a nursing home can be a very stressful experience, especially when the facility’s management fails to provide enough staff. Over time, the stresses of the job can wear down even the most well-intentioned nursing home employee. Adding to the stress are staff shortages magnified over the past few years by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the Steinberg Law Firm, our South Carolina nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers proudly help individuals and families hold long-term care facilities accountable for the preventable harms residents suffer. Our compassionate attorneys have a detailed understanding of a nursing home’s obligations to its residents and use this knowledge to ensure our clients are fairly compensated for what they have been through.
The Scope of the Problem
A recent study conducted by the American Health Care Association in conjunction with the National Center for Assisted Living interviewed nearly 1,200 nursing home and assisted living management teams, asking about staffing levels. The results were shocking:
- 57 percent of nursing homes and 48 percent of assisted living facilities reported that their staffing situations had become “much worse” over the past three months.
- 59 percent of nursing homes report “high-level staffing shortages.”
- 58 percent of nursing homes limited new admissions due to staffing shortages.
- 99 percent of nursing homes and 100 percent of assisted living facilities have asked current staff to work overtime.
- Just three percent of nursing homes report having a “somewhat easy” or “very easy” time finding new staff members.
Existing staff members at almost all nursing homes have been forced to take on extra work. Understandably, this creates a stressful and tense work environment. However, it also drastically increases the risks that residents face.
What Staffing Shortages Mean for South Carolina Nursing Home Residents
Historically, the incidents of nursing home neglect and abuse have been high. According to the National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys, roughly five million elders are abused each year, with one in ten people over the age of 65 experiencing some form of elder abuse. The most common types of elder abuse include:
Understaffing is a primary cause of nursing home abuse and neglect. For example, South Carolina law provides ratio requirements that nursing homes must meet. The ratio of nursing home staff to residents depends on the time of day.
- Morning (7 a.m. to 3 p.m.) – One staff member per nine residents.
- Afternoon (3 p.m. to 11 p.m.) – One staff member per 13 residents.
- Evening (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) – One staff member per 22 residents.
Nursing home staff shortages increase the risks that residents face on a daily basis. Overworked staff members will have less time to spend with each resident. This can lead to residents’ needs being overlooked. For example, staff may check in on residents less often, increasing the risk of residents developing pressure ulcers. Additionally, residents who need assistance may not be able to summon help in a timely manner and may attempt to get up on their own, potentially resulting in a fall.
The increased stress nursing home staff members face can also increase the likelihood of abuse. While most nursing home workers do not accept a position thinking they could even intentionally harm a resident, staff members who find themselves stretched too thin may snap, becoming physically violent. This is not to say that nursing home staff members are not accountable for their actions; they certainly are. However, nursing home management also bears responsibility in these situations.
What to Do When You Suspect Nursing Home Neglect in South Carolina
Family members who believe that a nursing home is neglecting or abusing a loved one should first reach out to the nursing home’s management team. Often, reporting abuse or neglect will bring attention to any deficiencies, giving the nursing home the chance to make the necessary improvements. However, if management does not take loved ones’ concerns seriously, additional action is required.
The next step is to file a complaint with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. Filing a complaint will trigger an official investigation into the facility.
If your loved one suffered serious injuries as a result of nursing home neglect, it is also important that you reach out to a South Carolina nursing home attorney. Nursing home neglect and abuse are matters of great public importance, and families should take every step to protect their loved ones as well as other residents.
Bringing a South Carolina nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit can also result in a family recovering meaningful compensation for what their loved one has been through. This can be critical to covering the cost of medical care. A recent survey among nursing home neglect lawyers indicates that the average settlement in these cases is around $400,000.
Contact the Steinberg Law Firm to Schedule a Free Consultation With a South Carolina Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer
Nursing homes must provide an adequate level of care to all residents, which includes arranging for enough staff to be on duty to attend to all residents’ needs. If you have a loved one in a South Carolina nursing home and believe they have been subject to abuse or neglect, reach out to the Steinberg Law Firm. Our South Carolina nursing home neglect lawyers have over 95 years of experience advocating on behalf of accident victims, nursing home residents and their families. We provide our clients with individualized attention and make ourselves available whenever you have a question or concern about your case. To learn more and schedule a free consultation with a South Carolina nursing home neglect lawyer, give the Steinberg Law Firm a call at 843-720-2800. You can also reach us through our online contact form.
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Steinberg attorneys have been awarded numerous distinctions, such as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America by U.S. News & World Report, Gedney M. Howe, Jr. Award for Outstanding Public Service, the SC Leadership in Law award, and has been voted Best Workers’ Comp Firm in SC, among other distinctions.
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