Understaffing nursing homes is incredibly dangerous to adults over 65 residing in long-term care facilities such as Southern California nursing homes. That's precisely why specific laws and regulations are in place which mandate proper staffing at long-term care facilities.
Under California law, "The facility shall employ an adequate number of qualified personnel to carry out all of the functions of the facility" Health & Safety Code § 1599.1(a). Moreover, Health & Safety Code §1276.5-1276.65 mandates that nursing homes must provide a minimum of 3.2 nursing hours per patient per day.
Unfortunately, many facilities choose to ignore the California law. Even worse, the understaffing of nursing homes has been directly correlated to abuse and neglect of elders. Indeed, understaffing in California nursing homes leads to substandard care over and over again. Substandard care in nursing homes then leads to illness, injury, and too often, death.
Reports estimate that more than 90% of nursing homes in America are not adequately staffed to accomplish all caretaking tasks required by their elderly patients. In many instances, nursing homes in Southern California are so dangerously understaffed that nurses are unable to complete daily tasks such as delivering meals to their elderly residents' bedsides.
Legislation in California has been enacted to force an increase in staffing in California nursing homes. In 2004, for example, the Medi-Cal Long Term Care Reimbursement Act (AB 1629) was enacted to ensure high quality of care in nursing homes by increasing staffing and promoting compliance with State and Federal regulations.
However, studies appeared within just years of the enactment, which proved that the new reimbursement rate system did not result in significant improvement in quality. Although average staffing levels improved slightly, they remained far below the threshold of minimum staffing levels suggested by experts. Moreover, 16% of state nursing homes failed to meet the minimum staffing levels required by state law.
Six years after the law was enacted, in April 2010, other agencies published results of their independent investigations into the effects of the Act. Their findings were disappointing to say the least. Despite an influx of nearly $900 million in additional funding afforded to California nursing homes, more than 230 California nursing homes cut staff, paid lower wages, and/or allowed staffing levels to slip below the legally mandated minimum.
Understaffing in nursing homes has been linked to:
• Increase in use of physical and chemical restraints
• Increase in falls
• Misuse of medication
• Malnutrition & dehydration
• Bedsores and related infections
State and Federal law requires nursing homes to be properly staffed in order to protect the rights of all residents living in a nursing home or other long-term care facility. If an elder you know is being neglected, or abused while in the care of a facility charged with caring for them, report your suspicions to Adult Protective Services, an Ombudsman and/or an elder abuse attorney immediately.
Christopher C. Walton is a peer-recognized, California elder abuse attorney whose practice is dedicated to issues involving elder abuse & neglect. If you believe somebody you know has been a victim of elder abuse, please call (619) 233-0011 for a free and confidential consultation.