"At some point...the system is going to fracture"
Staffing shortages at nursing homes and assisted living facilities are becoming more and more common in Georgia and throughout the nation. According to a recent report by NPR, nursing facilities are currently experiencing "historic staffing shortages," which is something that creates an environment ripe for nursing home abuse and neglect.
"At some point, you know, the system is going to fracture because people need care," Tricia Neuman, a senior vice president with the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in an interview with NPR. "And you can't get by without someone there to provide basic daily needs."
Why are nursing homes understaffed?
The nursing home staffing shortage began during the pandemic. Some nursing home employees have quit “in record numbers since the pandemic started,” NPR reported. Other nursing facilities are understaffed because employees “had to stay home because of breakthrough infections.”
An estimated 25 percent of all COVID-19 deaths have involved nursing home staff members or residents, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Overall, an estimated 200,000 people who work or live in long-term care facilities in the country have died due to COVID since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, according to KFF.
When nursing facilities are short-staffed, extra pressure is put on the workers who remain.
"You can see it in people's eyes – the tiredness, the exhaustion," Jenna Szymanski, a nurse at a Good Samaritan Society nursing home, said in an interview with NPR. "All the staff, I think, are pretty burnt out right now."
Understaffing at Georgia nursing homes
Nursing home staffing shortages remain a serious problem in Georgia. Specifically, Georgia has the fourth-lowest nursing home staffing levels of any state nationwide, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In addition, many nursing homes in Georgia have some of the worst nursing home staffing ratings. In particular, 1 out of 4 nursing homes in Georgia received a one-star quality rating from the federal government, the lowest possible rating, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
But even before the pandemic, nursing homes in Georgia often had a hard time hiring and retaining staff members. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, many nursing home staff workers cited low pay, being overworked, and health risks associated with the job as reasons why they’ve left the industry.
“They are stressed out, they are tired, they don’t know if they want to stay in this industry or any healthcare industry at this point in time,” Debbie Meade, CEO of Health Management, a nursing home company based in Georgia, said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Staffing shortages affect the level of patient care
When nursing homes and assisted living facilities are understaffed, it's the welfare of the residents that ultimately suffers. Nurses on the staff become stressed out, overwhelmed, and unable to adequately provide the level of care their patients deserve.
In this environment, burnt-out employees often take their frustrations out on patients by neglecting their needs or abusing them verbally, physically, and/or emotionally. Health issues such as bedsores, sepsis, dehydration, and rapid weight loss become more common, and the risk of patient falls increases due to a lack of regular cleaning and maintenance at the facility.
In Georgia, the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman investigates nursing home negligence complaints. But it’s important to realize that such investigations only focus on whether your loved one was abused or neglected. They do not decide whether your family should be financially compensated for medical expenses and other losses associated with your loved one’s injury or illness. That's why if you suspect abuse or neglect, you should talk to a nursing home negligence lawyer right away to get a clear understanding of your legal rights and options.
At Kurle Justus, LLC, we know how to build strong cases and hold negligent nursing facilities accountable. Discover what we can do for you. Contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney. We're located in Decatur and proudly handle nursing home abuse and neglect cases throughout Georgia.
Let us demand the justice and financial compensation your family rightfully deserves.