How does the resident-to-staff ratio affect nursing home care?

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2023 | Nursing Home Negligence |

Nursing homes are for vulnerable groups, like the elderly, whose health conditions do not need hospitalization but still require extensive medical care more than their residential homes can provide. As of the latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics, Americans have 15,600 nursing homes to choose from across the country. While that seems like a ton of sources for elderly care, the demand may still be more than nursing home staff can handle.

On top of the daily routine – eating, bathing, dressing up, taking medications, and moving around for exercise or leisurely activities – some senior residents have chronic health problems calling for more complex maintenance. These can be exceptionally daunting tasks, especially for understaffed nursing homes. While there are no federal standards for an ideal resident-to-staff ratio, the current administration, through the Department of Health and Human Services, expressed new initiatives targeted at safe, adequate and dignified care throughout the country. 

Types of staff

Under the Delaware Code, in every nursing home, the minimum staffing level must not be less than 3.28 hours of direct care per resident per day. Direct care means daily living assistance, physical or psychosocial assessments, documentation, care planning, and communication with family members and other medical professionals.

Included in the staff are the following positions:

  • Director of nursing (DON)
  • Assistant director of nursing (ADON)
  • Registered nurse assessment coordinator (RNAC)
  • Registered nurse (RN)

The DON, ADON and RNAC do administrative or managerial tasks, unless there are “exigent circumstances,” which are short-term and unavoidable emergencies. The RN, on the other hand, generally handles supervision and evaluation of up to 75% of their work shift.

In some cases, there are also certified nurse aides for additional assistance, physical therapists for pain management and administrators for overall facility management.

Impact of understaffing

A complete staff means effective and efficient implementation of individualized tasks. However, understaffing still plagues Delaware and the rest of the country due to the following reasons:

  • High labor costs
  • Low pay rates
  • Excessive exhaustion

These are just some factors that increase the risks of a nursing home staff’s negligent behavior leading to a range of catastrophic injuries, and in the worst cases, even death. Knowing this, you have an obligation to fight for your loved one’s rights.

Raising the standard of care

An understaffed workforce cannot deliver the quality of care you paid for and urgently need for your elderly loved one. So, in cases of medical malpractice, you must know that the state has no award cap. But you must not waste any more time, and act now. You only have two years since the incident to file a claim. It will help to work with a legal team to discuss your options on how to seek compensation for all your losses.