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Inadequate staffing may lead to nursing home problems

There are approximately 1.6 million residents in nursing homes in Illinois and around the country. Several studies indicate that problems due largely to inadequate staffing plague some of the 17,000 nursing homes in existence. In 1987, a federal law was passed aimed at ensuring that nursing home residents receive adequate nutrition. Despite this, about 33 percent of nursing home residents are malnourished and dehydrated. The combination may cause significant medical issues including tooth decay, anemia, low blood pressure and fractures.

At issue, according to one study, is the lack of adequate staffing resulting in 85 percent of residents in some nursing facilities suffering from malnutrition. In addition, up to 50 percent were underweight. The study’s coauthor said that the lack of food coupled with dehydration mirrors problems seen in developing nations. This leads to preventable physical ailments.

The reason this occurs, according to many observers, is due to problems with rotating staff who are overworked. Certified nursing assistants are required to aid up to 10 residents during the day and 15 at night with eating and drinking. The discrepancy between the best-case scenario of two to three residents per aide and current ratios is of concern. Residents are given little choice in their meals, and ethnic foods are largely unavailable.This may be compounded by poor dentition that limits the type of food residents may eat. Depression and other conditions are linked to weight loss among the elderly.

The family of relatives in nursing homes may wish to explore their nutritional care. If deficiencies are apparent, they may wish to consult an attorney. Such elder abuse may be the focus of a personal injury suit against a nursing home owner citing negligence and recovering expenses related to medical care and other costs.

Source: The Commonwealth Fund, “Malnutrition And Dehydration Plague Nursing Home Residents“, December 09, 2014

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