Nursing Home Justice Blog

How Has the Nursing Home Staff Shortage Increased Resident Deaths?

Written By:

Attorney Mac Hester

Date Posted:

October 20, 2023

Despite the high demand for nurses since the pandemic, many are putting the profession aside to pursue different careers — and with fewer nursing grads each year, there’s little hope that the nursing industry will return to regular staffing levels soon. The Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence claims that 33,000 nurses are needed to satisfy demand; however, in one recent year, only 24,000 graduated.

The sudden decrease in qualified nurses working in long-term care facilities has left many nursing homes ill-equipped to handle the growing aging population. These understaffed homes have increased the risk of resident deaths significantly due to low-quality care, neglect, abuse, and more. Here’s more on how nursing home staff shortages are impacting resident mortality.

Why is There a Nursing Staff Shortage?

While many cite the newly retired baby boomer population as a cause for the mass exodus of nurses, some suggest more pertinent issues — burnout, fatigue, and the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. Between 2020 and 2022, Colorado nursing homes experienced a steep drop in staff members, losing a total of 210,000 jobs. Many suggest that nursing homes won’t return to normal staffing levels until 2027.

In 2020, nursing homes became ground zero for Covid-19, and the virus spread like wildfire among patients in these facilities, requiring staff members to work extended hours in harsh conditions.

Further, staff members experienced a higher rate of resident deaths given that long-term care facilities accounted for at least 31% of all Covid-19 deaths in the first year of the pandemic. Grief associated with a higher rate of resident deaths and exhaustion from overworked staff members are leading factors of burnout, which has caused many nurses to find work elsewhere. 

How Does Understaffing Increase Resident Deaths?

The issue of understaffing opens the floodgate to an array of problems that all increase the risk of resident death. You or your loved one may have suffered injury or death due to one or more of the following reasons: 

Nurses Are Unable to Provide Quality Care for All Patients

When nursing homes have a low staff-to-resident ratio, it’s impossible for them to give each patient the care they deserve, which often leads to neglect. Without proper care, residents succumb to disease, bed sores, infections, and other issues. In some cases, residents may go days without having daily needs met, such as eating, drinking, and bathing. Patients with cognitive disorders, like Alzheimer’s and Dementia may be more prone to wandering off without supervision.

Nursing Home Facilities are Poorly Maintained

Facilities require routine maintenance to ensure they are safe and function properly. This may include keeping walkways clear, cleaning up resident’s rooms, or disinfecting touch points. Sanitization was a major issue during the Covid-19 pandemic, and many nursing homes lacked the infection control policies needed to control the spread of the virus.

Overworked Nurses Have a Higher Rate of Mistakes

Nursing home staff members are responsible for properly administering the right medications to patients. Overworked staff members may succumb to exhaustion, increasing the chance of making mistakes on the job. Nurses may give patients the wrong medication or fail to give them any meds at all.

Nurses May Be More Likely to Abuse Residents

When nurses experience symptoms of burnout or exhaustion, they may be more likely to lose their temper and take it out on defenseless residents. While this could come in the form of physical abuse, staff members might choose to torment residents emotionally by calling them names, intimidating them, or humiliating them in various ways.

Residents May Feel Higher Rates of Depression & Anxiety

 A common symptom of abuse and neglect is a resident’s behavior. They may experience higher rates of anxiety, which could cause them to fall into a deep pit of depression. These mental issues are extremely dangerous for residents in advanced years. Researchers have found that depression correlates to higher mortality rates among elderly individuals.

Suffering from Abuse & Neglect? Call Today

The staff shortage has impacted residents and their families throughout Colorado. If you or your loved one suffered an injury or untimely death due to the nursing home’s negligence, call Nursing Home Justice Today at (303) 775-8128.

Despite the nursing staff shortage, greedy nursing homes and their management companies continue to give staff members more than they can handle by overcrowding facilities. Be sure to identify the signs of abuse and neglect and contact an attorney as soon as possible. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.

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