The obligations of a nursing home to care for a resident is dependent on the staff. Not only must the staff be adequately trained, but the nursing home must also have a sufficient number of employees to provide the necessary care for its residents. Unfortunately, some nursing homes deliberately understaff their facility, emphasizing profits over care. This has many impacts on the residents and leads to a deterioration in the quality of the services provided to seniors. The lack of staff increases the probability that a resident will suffer an injury at a nursing home. While understaffing is a contributing factor in many nursing home lawsuits, there have recently been class action lawsuits against nursing homes in some states solely for understaffing.
How Much Nursing Home Staff Is Required?
In most states, nursing homes are regulated by the Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). The CMS requires nursing homes to report staff hours per resident per day. They also require nursing homes to inform them of a total amount of staffing, plus a breakdown by category of nurses. On the official U.S. government site for Medicare, users are able to find information about nursing homes and compare information among different facilities. The CMS website also provides ratings based on inspection results, amount of staff available, penalties, and how well the facility performs in specific areas of care. This is all publicly reported on the website and is a helpful resource for families looking for information on a potential care facility for their loved ones.
Even if the nursing home claims to maintain a certain number of nurses and therapists on staff, they are not always working. If there is a sufficient amount of staff at the nursing home, they may not be trained to provide care as is required by each resident’s needs. Sheer numbers do not always equate to a nursing home that is appropriately staffed.
The Consequences of Staff Shortages in Nursing Homes
When a nursing home is understaffed, there are numerous impacts on the seniors who live there. For many, understaffing is a matter of life and death since not getting the care that they need may result in serious detriment to their health.. Here are some of the complications that may occur when nursing homes do not have adequate staff:
- Residents can develop pressure ulcers since staff members are required to shift the senior’s position frequently and take the time to properly treat and change wound dressings or bandages. Bedsores can become a dangerous, life-threatening condition.
- Hygiene at the facility will suffer since residents are not given the showers or grooming that they need. As a result, seniors can develop infections.
- Residents can develop urinary tract infections since reduced staff cannot administer proper bladder care.
- Understaffing can lead to dehydration and malnutrition since nurses are not on hand to make sure that residents are receiving enough nutrients and fluids as necessary.
- A general lack of supervision will put seniors at risk of suffering injuries from nursing home falls and other accidents.
Residents who suffer from these injuries and complications should speak with a personal injury lawyer to file an understaffed nursing home lawsuit. Damages from the lack of nursing home staff and care can result in financial compensation for the injured parties.
Why Are There Staff Shortages in Nursing Homes?
Understaffing generally results from the nursing home’s profit motive. Large nursing home chains have expanded in recent years, acquiring other nursing homes to add to their portfolio. These chains and companies truly view their nursing home as an investment. Many of these large nursing home chains are either owned by shareholders or private equity companies. As a result, they are under continuous pressure to produce high earnings for their owners. The quickest and easiest way to achieve this result is to cut back on staff members and to try to provide the required care with fewer nurses.
There is no federal requirement as to how much staff each nursing home needs. Facilities are supposed to use their professional judgment to determine the number of employees necessary to meet the care requirements.
State Laws About Nursing Home Staffing
Some states have laws and regulations that dictate the required level of staffing at each nursing home. For example, California requires that nursing homes provide 3.5 hours of direct care per resident per day. The state recently raised the amount from 3.2 hours per day. Nursing homes across the state have criticized the regulations and have lobbied against them. Several other states have even higher required levels of care, such as Illinois, which requires 3.8 hours of care per day.
Care facilities that explicitly violate these regulations are subject to an understaffed nursing home lawsuit. Families of loved ones who are residents of facilities where there is a lack of nursing home staff have the option to take legal action against these negligent nursing homes.
Class Action Lawsuits for Nursing Home Understaffing
Recently, there has been a growth in the number of understaffed nursing home lawsuits. Of course, many individual lawsuits against nursing facilities for injuries suffered by residents allege that a lack of nursing home staff was a contributing factor to the injury. However, there have been recent class-action lawsuits that have sought damages from nursing home understaffing.
These lawsuits have been brought primarily in states that have minimum requirements for nursing home staffing. Most of these lawsuits have been filed in California. However, these lawsuits have been filed in other states as well. For example, in 2017, there was a $72 million settlement of a lawsuit filed against nursing home operator Golden Living for chronic understaffing. Golden Living is one of the country’s largest nursing home operators, and they have numerous low-rated nursing homes in their portfolio. Here, residents of 12 of their nursing homes located in Arkansas filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that the nursing home understaffing violated certain state laws. Another nursing home chain called Grace Healthcare agreed to an $8.4 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit making similar allegations about nursing home understaffing.
In California, there are dozens of understaffed nursing home lawsuits pending. Brius Healthcare, the state’s largest nursing home operator, is facing numerous legal challenges alleging deliberate nursing home understaffing. One large nursing home operator, Skilled Healthcare Group, was hit with a $640 million verdict by a jury for nursing home understaffing. Many of these lawsuits have sought to return money to residents and their families for care that they paid for but did not receive.
Americans With Disabilities Act Lawsuit for Staffing
While many of these understaffed nursing home lawsuits have been filed under state laws, there was recently a lawsuit filed against Brookdale Assisted Living using a new legal theory. The case has alleged that Brookdale’s understaffing of its facilities constituted a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The understaffed nursing home lawsuit went into graphic details of how residents were left to sit in their own feces and urine and how call lights were not answered. The nursing home allegedly retaliated against residents who complained and numerous residents suffered a decline in their overall health. The ADA requires that facilities be accessible to those with disabilities, and the lawsuit alleged that inadequate staffing made the homes inaccessible to the disabled. While the case is still proceeding through the legal system, a judge ruled that the nursing home could be sued under the ADA for understaffing.
Class action lawsuits have now expanded across the country. For example, Sentosa Care, a medium-sized New York facility, has been sued for the staffing levels that it maintains at its facilities. Of course, plaintiffs will need a state law violation in order to file a successful understaffed nursing home lawsuit since staffing levels are not regulated federally. Numerous other class action lawsuits against nursing homes are in the process of being filed.
By definition, class action lawsuits involve common harm among many plaintiffs, which in this case are the residents who did not receive the care they were promised and as a result suffered injuries. When these class action lawsuits are settled or when there is a jury verdict in the plaintiff’s favor, there is a settlement fund that is established. Each resident or their family will be entitled to a portion of the fund. A class-action lawsuit will not result in a family being compensated for the particular injury suffered by the senior.
File an Understaffed Nursing Home Lawsuit
The nursing home negligence lawyers at KBA Attorneys know how to deal with facilities that provide poor care to their residents and have a lack of nursing home staff. Sometimes, complaints and requests for help are simply not enough to deal with a nursing home when their profit motive pulls them in one direction. When this occurs, skilled nursing facilities need to face legal action since there is nothing else that can convince them to do right by seniors.
Plaintiffs and their families can receive financial compensation for negligent care caused by nursing home understaffing. Contact KBA Attorneys today to find out how to file an understaffed nursing home lawsuit and take action against a facility that will not expend the resources and effort to care for those who depend on them.
Call 855-281-2571 or fill out an online form for a free case evaluation.
- Jordan Rau. “Most nursing homes are not adequately staffed, new federal data says”, Kaiser Health News, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/most-nursing-homes-are-not-adequately-staffed-new-federal-data-says. Accessed July 22, 2019.
- Gatwiri Muthara. “Gaps in Nursing Home Staffing Underreported”, AARP, https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/basics/info-2018/nursing-homes-staffing-quality-care.html. Accessed July 22, 2019.
- KHN. “Feds Order More Weekend Inspections Of Nursing Homes To Catch Understaffing”, Kaiser Health News, https://khn.org/news/feds-order-more-weekend-inspections-of-nursing-homes-to-catch-understaffing/. Accessed July 22, 2019.
- Charlene Harrington et al. “Nursing Facilities, Staffing, Residents and Facility Deficiencies, 2009 Through 2016”, Kaiser Health News, https://www.kff.org/medicaid/report/nursing-facilities-staffing-residents-and-facility-deficiencies-2009-through-2016/. Accessed July 22, 2019
- Kevin Boyd. “Health of elderly patients in nursing homes at risk due to understaffing, according to expert panel”, University of California San Francisco, https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2000/03/4964/health-elderly-patients-nursing-homes-risk-due-understaffing-ac. July 22, 2019.