Even a short-term stay of 35 days or less can result in significant harm to nursing home patients, according to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The study – released in 2014 – examined a sample of 653 Medicare beneficiaries discharged from hospitals to skilled nursing facilities for post-acute care. The study found that an estimated 22 percent of patients experienced harm resulting from medical care and an additional 11 percent experienced temporary harm during their stays.
Physician reviewers determined that 59 percent of the adverse events were clearly or likely preventable. They attributed the events to substandard treatment, inadequate resident monitoring, and failure or delay of necessary care – circumstances that often result from a shortage of qualified nursing staff.
Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is a widespread problem and occurs even to patients that are relatively healthy when entering these facilities. An estimated 1 in 20 nursing home abuse residents has been the victim of negligence or abuse, yet only 1 in 14 cases ever gets reported to authorities.
Nursing homes are severely understaffed and staff members are poorly trained. Studies show that more than half of nursing homes are below the suggested levels for nurses’ aide staff and 1 in 4 are below the suggested staffing levels for total licensed staff.
Nursing homes are severely lacking in around-the-clock registered nurse coverage. Federal regulations only require nursing homes receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding or both to have an RN on staff eight hours, seven days a week.
Further, low pay and work overload often result in caregiver burnout, poor morale and attendance, and high staff turnover rates. The residents pay the price in the form of inferior care and adverse health outcomes.
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