Nursing Home Staffing Numbers and Elder Abuse

Does the number of staff relate to the level of care in nursing homes and assisted living facilities?  According to a recent article in McKnight’sLong Term Care News Online, a new study suggests that staffing levels at nursing homes do in fact “correlate with better quality of care.”  But what does this mean, exactly?  Does simply hiring more staff mean that nursing home residents will be less likely to suffer from nursing home neglect, or should nursing homes invest in specific types of staff members with particular skill sets?

Old Woman

The study, which appeared late last month in Health Economics, suggests that mandatory staffing regulations often result in caregivers with less skill—in short, fewer registered nurses.  And registered nurses could be precisely what many nursing home residents need in order to obtain necessary care.  If your elderly loved one has sustained injuries as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, you should talk with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible.  A dedicated elder justice advocate at the Walton Law Firm would be happy to discuss your case with you today.

Details of the Study

The study included two key findings.  First, when nursing home staffing standards are met, there’s a significant reduction on the number of “severe deficiency citations.”  At the same time, however, staffing regulations can have an unexpected consequence: fewer registered nurses on staff.  In other words, when staff numbers must increase to meet regulations, nursing homes often decrease the number of registered nurses and employ licensed practical nurses and/or nursing assistants instead.  As a result, tighter regulations on staffing numbers might reduce serious deficiencies, but they also might run the risk of providing care from members of the nursing staff who have less education and skill than registered nurses.

The authors of the study, Min M. Chen, Ph.D., of Florida International University and David C. Grabowski, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Health Care Police, used research from more than 45,000 nursing homes.  They gathered data from year-long observations at each of the facilities during a 10-year period from 1996-2006.  The data came from nursing homes in California and Ohio.  Min and Grabowski indicated that they selected those states because state law didn’t have regulations when it comes to a specific number of staff.  As a result, the states acted as “controls” in the study.

California Law and Adequate Staffing Requirements

What kind of staffing requirements exist at California nursing homes?  According to the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) and under California law, nursing homes in our state “must have sufficient nursing and other employees to meet the needs of each resident in the nursing home at all times.”  As you might imagine, that requirement is a relatively vague one.  Are there others?

Under the California Health and Safety Code §1276.5(a), skilled nursing facilities must provide at least 3.2 hours of nursing care for each resident every day.  It’s important to remember that, even when a nursing home meets its required staff levels, nursing home abuse and neglect can happen.

If you are concerned that your elderly parent or loved one has been the victim of elder abuse, contact an experienced California nursing home abuse attorney today.

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