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How do short-staffed nursing homes affect patients?

According to a report from last year, the majority of nursing homes underreport their short staffing issues to the relevant governmental oversight agencies.

It's not difficult to understand how being short-staffed on a shift can adversely affect the patients. After all, if nurses and aides aren't present, the residents may not get bathed, fed and diapered regularly. They may miss doses of medicine or be at risk of falls because they try to climb out of bed.

When Kaiser Health News began analyzing data from payroll records for daily shifts, they found discrepancies from the actual staff levels that the facilities had self-reported to Medicare. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) did away with the system that allowed some nursing homes to manipulate the staffing number to the federal agency.

Understaffing problems often create small, seemingly inconsequential omissions. When a shift is overworked, residents may be unable to get themselves dressed on their own to go to breakfast. They may try to do the job themselves and end up falling, breaking a hip and winding up bed-bound until they die.

A dearth of nursing aides on staff may mean that immobile patients don't get repositioned frequently enough to avoid bedsores. Untreated decubitus ulcers can fester, and the infection can become systemic and kill them.

A lapse in hand-washing protocols as nurses strive to meet their patients' needs can cause deadly bugs like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) to spread to other residents and create lethal complications.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home or long-term care facility, short-staffing can cause or contribute to their worsened condition or even death. You can take action on your loved one's behalf to see that they are fairly compensated for any breaches of best nursing practices.

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