A large number of nursing home abuse and neglect cases can be
attributed to a single problem: inadequate nursing home staffing. It
is the number one complaint of residents and families alike, and
plagues nursing home throughout California.
According to Charlene Harrington, Ph.D. of UCSF, a professor of
nursing and sociology, and widely considered an expert on nursing
home staffing, the nursing home staffing picture in California isn’t
pretty. She has said that there are over 12 million staffing
deficiencies in U.S. nursing homes annually, and that approximately
one-quarter to one-third of all nursing homes provide substandard
care because of problems related to staffing.
Sufficient staffing is the number one indicator of the quality of care
one can expect to receive in a nursing home, says Dr.Harrington.
California requires that a licensed skill nursing facility provide at a
minimum of 3.2 hours of nursing, per patient, per day. While this is
a minimum standard, most California facilities view it as the
threshold, striving only to meet it. In fact, care provided by
registered nurses has been declining in California, which now has
one of the lowest RN per patient, per day ratios in the country.
Dr. Harrington says those that view California’s 3.2 hours as more a
ceiling than a floor are operating on dangerous footing,
emphasizing that 3.2 hours is a minimum requirement. Adequate
care for most facilities, she says, requires much more nursing, and
believes the law should be changed to require 4.1 hours per
patient, per day.
Ultimately, those facilities that provide more licensed nursing per
patient, per day, tend to have fewer problems and a more satisfied
A failure to provide adequate staffing numbers for the acuity levels
of the facility residents creates stressful working conditions that
contribute to an environment ripe for abuse.
Homes that are understaffed often overwork the existing staff to
make up for the shortages. In addition, it is not uncommon to have
caregivers who work two jobs to support their families, leading to
tired and irritable employees.
The failure to adequately train employees is also a cause for abuse
and neglect, particularly those who care for dementia patients and
others with memory impairment.
Negligent Background Check:
It is not rare to discover that a caregiver that commits an act of
abuse or neglect has a history of abusive conduct. Incomplete or
negligent background checks may allow cause a nursing facility to
hire an employee with a propensity to cause harm.
The bottom line is that under no circumstances should the resident
of a nursing home or assisted living facility be subjected to any
physical or sexual abuse. It is a crime that should be reported to
local law enforcement right away.