COVID-19 Put A Spotlight On Nursing Home Abuse. What Do We Do Now?

Author
Amanda Turner
June 2, 2021

When COVID-19 cases began to rise, no one was more susceptible to the virus than residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. 

Quickly, it became clear that nursing homes were not prepared for a crisis. While nursing homes have been hotbeds of abuse and neglect for years, COVID-19 made these issues hot national news topics. 

Many Americans are angry, given the fact that their hard-earned tax dollars dedicated to elderly care aren’t being put to good use. Current research shows that money isn’t being invested in actual caregiving, and many residents are paying with their lives. 

Underpaid and Understaffed: Poor Staff Treatment May Contribute To Nursing Home Abuse

Founder of long-term care facility consulting firm Nexus Insights, Robert Kramer, said it best. “The system is broken. Covid didn’t make it dysfunctional, but Covid showed that it was broken and dysfunctional. We are center stage, in the spotlight — whether we like it or not.”

nursing home abuse

Caretaker Burnout and Nursing Home Abuse

There are many reasons why nursing home abuse and neglect occur, and most causes can be traced back to the treatment and training of direct care staff.

Understaffing

In an effort to save money, many nursing home facilities are chronically understaffed. This means that despite staff members’ best efforts, patients do not receive the care they need. 

Neglect due to understaffing can start small — missing a dose of medication or skipping’s a patient’s daily bath — but can grow into larger issues over time that can result in patient illness or death. 

Staff members may find themselves struggling to cover up cases of neglect due to fear of getting reprimanded by management. In many care facilities, staff members are expected to get the job done, no matter what — even if that means care workers are regularly working overtime or covering the workload of two or more people.

Many Staff Members Are Underpaid

Nursing home direct care staff members often make minimum wage, or slightly more. Some staff members need to take on second jobs in order to cover household expenses. It’s easy for resentment and frustration to build up when caregivers feel exhausted and underappreciated. 

Sadly, patients — not administrators who are responsible for an employee’s paycheck — may bear the brunt of a staff member’s anger. 

Fragile elderly patients require a gentle touch, and it’s easy for a frustrated, exhausted caretaker to cause injury. Broken bones and severe bruising can occur easily in nursing home residents. 

Staff members who feel that they are undervalued may struggle to keep a positive attitude at work. Most nursing homes are privately run, therefore administrators are not required to pay staff members a pre-determined salary. Nursing home care aides may find that their pay rates vary greatly from job to job. This can lead to care providers feeling like their job is unappreciated or unimportant, and can result in a poor standard of care for patients.

Poor Training

While nurses and administrators are required to earn college degrees, direct care workers are usually required to have a high school diploma or GED. Many direct care workers begin their nursing home care careers without healthcare training. 

On-the-job learning leaves many opportunities for error. Since nursing home care providers are often working with patients who may struggle to advocate for their care, mistakes may go unnoticed until it’s too late. 

Mistakes on the job can hurt caregiver morale and can contribute to neglect and abuse in long-term care facilities. 

For many caregivers in nursing homes, the combination of understaffing, underpayment, and undertraining results in burnout. Workers may struggle to focus on or otherwise be unable to provide great patient care. 

Understaffed nursing homes may hesitate to terminate the employment of negligent or abusive caregivers, as this would result in even more stress o the rest of the staff.

nursing home help

Raising the Standard: Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s clear: the nursing home system needs a complete overhaul in order to effectively serve elderly patients. While there is much work that needs to be done, immediate action must occur to prevent further unnecessary cases of elderly abuse and neglect in nursing homes. 

Possible solutions to keep nursing home residents safe include: 

  • Mandating an across-the-board wage for direct caregivers, even in private facilities
  • Requiring mental health checks for employees susceptible to burnout
  • Increasing the number of staff members required to care for patients 

If Your Loved One Has Been Affected By Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse, They’re Not Alone.

It’s upsetting to realize that your loved one may have been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect. Thankfully, you have avenues for legal action if you think this is the case for your loved one. 

We’d love to talk with you about the signs of nursing home neglect and discuss whether you may have a legal case. Reach out to us today for a free case review.

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