The Biden Administration is investigating the possibility of instituting federal nursing home staff requirements in 2023. Often, the injuries resulting from nursing home neglect stem from inadequate staffing levels. Studies show that injuries in nursing homes increase when the nurse-to-resident staffing ratio is inadequate. Many industry safety experts have demanded minimum staffing requirements in nursing homes for decades.
The COVID-19 pandemic heightened the concern for patients in nursing homes, with more than 150,000 residents and approximately 2,700 staff members dying of the infection to this point. It represents a terrible impact on some of the most vulnerable people in society and shines a light on the conditions many patients face in facilities that are not staffed appropriately.
There are decades of accumulated evidence that residents suffer more health complications and risks in nursing homes without the necessary number of nurses and assistants to address all their needs. In response to that and the COVID failure, the Biden administration has set in motion plans for federal minimum staffing requirements for the nation’s 15,500 nursing homes.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a report more than 20 years ago (in 2001) that dictated that nursing homes should deliver at least 4.1 hours of nursing care per resident every day to avoid unnecessary complications — like bedsores and falls. This equates to about one nurse for every seven residents on day and evening shifts. This guideline, however, was met by only a third of all homes prior to the pandemic.
Nursing Home Staffing Requirements Have Faced Pushback
Industry opposition has prevented the 2001 CMS study guidelines from becoming a requirement for nursing homes. Despite strong scientific studies, lawsuits, and government reports that all continue to show the negatives of low nursing staff levels on the health and well-being of patients, the industry itself has worked hard to block regulation.
The response from the nursing home industry is that patient safety recommendations for minimum staff levels are too costly to implement in practice. The 4.1-hour guideline, for instance, would cost up to $10 billion per year contend industry interest groups. There’s an ongoing shortage of workers needed to do the job, which only worsened in the pandemic, and critics of mandates say the government has never provided enough funding through Medicaid programs to support that new level of staffing.
What You Can Do if You Suspect Subpar Nursing Home Staffing Requirements
The decision to house any loved one in a skilled care facility is never easy and is only made more difficult with the realities of staffing at most facilities across the country. At Mitchell, Hoffman & Wolf, we understand the difficulty involved and have previously provided a checklist to help you investigate whether the level of care offered at a nursing home is appropriate. Remember these key points:
- Check the quality of care of a facility through court databases or other regulatory agencies
- Visit the facility frequently and unannounced
- Ask questions, particularly about the staffing levels in place and experience
It’s important to note that you can use technology to help monitor the level of care for your loved one when you can’t be there. For example, Illinois law allows for the use of video cameras in resident rooms — provided the resident offers consent.
The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act guarantees all nursing home residents the right to be free from abuse and neglect. At Mitchell, Hoffman & Wolf, our team of attorneys has years of experience in bringing cases on the behalf of nursing home residents for violations of this statute with tremendous success. If you believe neglect is happening, legal representation may offer you the justice and answers you seek.
Mitchell, Hoffman & Wolf is Here to Help
For over 30 years, the lawyers at Mitchell, Hoffman & Wolf have represented victims of nursing home neglect. While we’re hopeful that nursing home staffing requirements may improve the quality of care many residents receive, they’re not in place yet.
As a society, we need to make a value judgment if we’re going to commit the necessary funding to protect those that are elderly and vulnerable. This means the for-profit nursing home industry and our government have to dedicate the resources required to take care of the loved ones we place in their care.
With Mitchell, Hoffman & Wolf, you will always get a named partner working on your case. We’ll put our full attention and experience — we have more than 100 years of combined legal experience — to work for you. We have proven experience in getting the best for our clients when they’ve faced unnecessary injury or illness in a long-term care facility. If you or a family member has suffered an injury as the result of nursing home neglect or has questions about the quality of care provided at a skilled care facility, please feel free to contact the attorneys at Mitchell Hoffman & Wolf for a free case assessment.