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Understaffed, stressful nursing homes can lead to abuse, neglect

Nursing home abuse and neglect is a very serious issue, and unfortunately happens more often than many families are aware of. In the past few years, many nursing homes in New York have faced staffing shortages that results in nursing home patients being at risk for an injury caused by negligence or abuse.

When nursing homes do not have enough staff to safely care for all patients, many nursing home facilities have their current employees work double shifts. Some facilities try to address the staff shortages by using nursing assistants from outside agencies. However, many of these employees are not properly trained or familiar with the safety practices of the facility, which increases the risk of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Adding to the safety issues in New York nursing homes, the state does not currently regulate how many patients can be assigned to a nursing assistant or aide on a given shift. This already puts patients at risk for an injury due to negligence but when nursing homes are short-staffed, patients end up waiting longer to be checked on or they don't receive proper care or medications on time. Unfortunately, when nursing home staff members are overworked and stressed out, they may not be able to provide adequate care for all of their patients.

While many nursing home injuries are blamed on overworked nursing aides and understaffed nursing homes, a study found that in New York, not all cases of nursing home abuse and neglect were caused by stress or overworked staff members. The study found that the abuse rate in New York nursing homes is 24 times higher than what was reported to state authorities, and many of these cases were a result of intentional abuse from a nursing home employee.

Nursing home abuse includes ignoring a patient with bed sores or a different injury or illness that requires specific attention to cases of assault or harassment. Abuse and neglect also include medication errors or not receiving the proper type or dose of medication.

Nursing home safety advocates say that New York needs to improve the way they review and investigate nursing home facilities for abuse and neglect because many victims do not report their abuse because they are unable to or they do not feel comfortable reporting it. 

Source: Post Star, "Watching out for nursing home abuse, neglect," Jon Alexander, May 18, 2013

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