Strong Links between Staffing Levels and Deficiencies in Nursing Homes

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There is no question that understaffing in California’s nursing homes is one of the main causes of nursing home abuse and neglect in these care facilities. According to a column by J.G. Preston, who is the press secretary for the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC), understaffing in nursing homes can be downright dangerous to the health and well-being of residents.

Preston cites a recent study done by the University of Pittsburgh and published in the May issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. This study basically finds a strong correlation between low staffing levels and the receipt of an infection control deficiency citation at nursing homes. Infections are the leading cause of death in nursing homes – about 400,000 deaths a year nationwide.

What is the connection between understaffing and infections? When staffing levels are low, the study found, caregivers are likely to be hurried and have less time to focus on important infection control measures such as washing their hands. It is interesting to note that the study also finds a strong link between infection citations and nursing homes’ for-profit status.
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Nursing Homes Abuse Cases Increasingly Involve Chemical Restraint

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There has been an alarming increase recently in nursing home abuse incidents involving chemical restraint. According to a news report in the Ventura County Star, nearly 25 percent of California’s nursing home residents are placed on antipsychotic drugs. Medicare statistics from 2010 show that 24.2 percent of residents in California’s nursing homes were on antipsychotics. And very often, these patients do not need these drugs. The drugs are used as a “chemical leash” to control residents’ behavior. Consumer watchdogs are saying that this trend of using chemical restraint to silence nursing home residents has become an epidemic in California.

A Tactic to Keep Nursing Homes Understaffed

Putting elderly, frail residents on antipsychotic drugs has absolutely no benefits for patients. In fact, these drugs can double the risk of death for seniors with dementia and cause a range of deadly side effects from stroke to delirium. These drugs only play out to the advantage of understaffed nursing homes, which use the medication as a way to keep residents in a quiet daze so they do not demand services. Often, these antipsychotic drugs are given in nursing homes and care facilities without the informed consent of residents or their families.
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Family of Deceased Nursing Home Patient Sues Alleging Negligence

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The family of 89-year-old Carrie Delay has filed a lawsuit against the Motion Picture & Television’s care facility in Los Angeles alleging nursing home neglect. According to a news report in the Los Angeles Times, the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court states that nursing staff failed to properly monitor Delay, a wheelchair-bound Alzheimer’s patient, who fell down the stairs while at the nursing home. Delay fractured her spine and sustained other injuries in the fall, which caused her death a week after the incident.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by Delay’s family members seeks punitive damages for elder abuse and negligence. The incident appears to have been the most serious of several at the skilled nursing facility, which has faced several complaints recently from both residents and family members who say that the quality of care is substandard and deteriorating. The facility was fined $10,000 for failing to prevent several falls suffered by another Alzheimer’s patient. The facility was also fined last year for failing to prevent a serious head injury to another elderly resident.
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