According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, one of the major contributing causes of nursing home abuse is understaffing of the nursing home facility. Understaffing indirectly contributes to abuse because caregivers and staff members who are underpaid and overworked are more likely to take their frustrations out on nursing home residents. Because of the serious consequences of understaffing, U.S. law now considers the phenomenon illegal. Despite that, as many as 95% of U.S. nursing homes are inadequately staffed.
One major consequence of understaffing is overtime. When a nursing home operates with an insufficient amount of personnel, existing personnel must pick up the slack by working odd and extended hours. Overworked individuals, regardless of where they work, experience increased stress and frustration and decreased levels of concentration and care. This can indirectly lead to the neglect and physical and verbal abuse of residents.
Understaffing can also impact staff members’ abilities to attend to every nursing home residents’ needs in a timely fashion. This further contributes to the neglect of residents. For instance, many nursing home residents depend on staff to go through the most basic activities of daily living. Those include eating, bathing, grooming and taking medications. If nursing home staff fail to help a resident bathe or groom on a regular basis, the patient is at an increased risk for developing bedsores and infections. Skipping meals or medications can lead to malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies and other serious complications.
Understaffing also severely affects the immobile. When a nursing home resident is immobile, he or she relies on caretakers to turn over, go to the restroom, exercise and ambulate from place to place. An understaffed nursing home cannot possibly meet every residents’ needs in a timely fashion, which can lead to bedsores, muscle atrophy, accidents and infections. All of these outcomes can cause psychological harm for the nursing home resident.
Finally, understaffing leads to outright abuse. Caretakers who admit to having abused a patient in the past cite stress due to understaffing as one of the primary causes of their frustrations. Having limited time to care for each resident leads to impatience and the use of unnecessary force when dealing with them.