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Friday, May 1, 2009

Nursing Home Staff Shortage: Patient Neglect and Abuse (Video 2:07 mins.)

One reason I wrote Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is to relate, not only cozy stories that depict the positive side of my hospice volunteer experiences in nursing homes, but to also convey those seldom mentioned negative aspects in need of improvement. The reality, supported by research, is that the quality of life for all patients, whether at home or in institutions, depends on the context of their care. Among other variables, that context includes policy makers, staff, equipment, race, and location. That context also includes me, and that’s why I advocate for patients.

Book Excerpt:

“Sometimes a shortage in staff had harmful consequences for patients. This included being left in unchanged beds, not being fully clean, and not being assisted when help was required for eating. Some patients tried to feed themselves, using their hands when they couldn’t see their eating utensils. Patients waiting for help sometimes stared at their food while it turned cold. Those with depression or dementia often had little interest in food. They needed someone to motivate them throughout the meal.”

Staff shortages in nursing homes negatively impact patients around the country. There is no excuse for patient neglect and abuse, especially when it is criminal. According to the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR), it is a violation of state and federal law for any person, including facility staff, volunteers, visitors, family members or guardians, or another resident, to neglect or abuse a resident.

Neglect and abuse can be reported to the following:

1) The nursing home’s administrator, director of nursing, and social worker
2) The state or local ombudsman
3) The local police or state law enforcement
4) A Protection and Advocacy or Adult Protective Services agency
5) The state survey agency that licenses and certifies nursing homes (often in the Health Department)
6) A citizen advocacy group, or other church or community group that visits regularly

This video about alleged patient neglect and abuse in some New York nursing homes indicates that critical staff shortages can be a contributing factor.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog