As the nation’s population continues to age, more people will be moving into assisted living facilities in the coming years. However, recent reports suggest that the nation’s facilities are critically understaffed, which increases the likelihood that elderly residents will not get the care they need. This widespread staff shortage is a crisis that will end up in more injured elderly unless swift action is taken.
The Scope of the Problem
As detailed in a recent news story, Texas has been particularly hard hit by staff shortages, undoubtedly due to its very high turnover rates:
- 97% staff turnover for certified nurse aides
- 90% turnover for registered nurses
Earlier this year, the Texas Health Care Association called the shortage in nursing homes a “crisis.” A primary reason for the crisis is the state’s low Medicaid reimbursement rate, which puts financial stress on assisted living facilities. Recent research discussed in Skilled Nursing News has shown that states with higher reimbursement rates have more staffing hours for each patient. Unfortunately, Texas has the second lowest reimbursement rate in the nation.
News reports regularly pop up vividly describing what can happen when assisted living facilities do not have adequate staff. One resident in Maryland died after falling three times in one die. Coverage gaps were to blame.
Another resident in Tennessee walked out of the assisted living facility and fell in the parking lot before getting up and heading to the woods. Fortunately, staff was able to find him and bring him back.
Inadequate supervision can lead to falls, which are the second leading cause of death and injuries for seniors. Residents who fall can suffer broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, back injuries, and damage to their spinal column, among other problems. Given their advanced age, residents do not quickly bounce back from these injuries as a younger person would.
Staff shortages can also lead to:
- Fights between residents
- Skipped medications
- Untreated illnesses
Protect Your Loved One
If you have noticed unexplained bruises or poor hygiene when you visit a relative in an assisted care facility, then there might be a problem. Other signs of neglect include inexplicable weight loss, injuries, and trips to the hospital.
To protect your loved one, talk to the administration about whether there is adequate staff to supervise residents. Also stop in at unusual times to check out the staffing situation. For example, a facility might have plenty of staff on the days or times when you visit but slip below that level at other times.
If necessary, you might need to consider moving your loved one, but nursing homes around Texas are all feeling the pinch of staff shortages. Until the state begins increasing its reimbursement rate, elderly residents will continue to suffer.
Speak to a Nursing Home Lawyer
Elder abuse and neglect are serious problems that deserve a swift response. If a loved one has been injured, you should meet with an experienced Austin attorney to discuss your situation. DC Law is pleased to offer a free consultation, which you can schedule by calling 512-220-1800.