Nursing home staff members are essential workers. Without them, there would be no one to care for our loved ones in nursing homes. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic began, many nursing homes underpaid their employees and understaffed their nursing homes. Now, however, the situation is dire in many Kentucky nursing homes, and nursing home residents throughout the Commonwealth are at risk of suffering severe injuries.
U.S. Nursing Homes Lost 450,000 Workers Between February 2020 and December 2021
Kentucky is no exception to the national trend. In November 2021, the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities (KAHCF) and the Kentucky Center for Assisted Living (KCAL) surveyed their members. They found that more than half were concerned they may have to close their facilities if Kentucky nursing home staff shortages continue.
More than 100 assisted living communities or skilled nursing home facilities reported moderate to high staffing shortages in Kentucky at the end of 2021.
People are leaving nursing home work in large numbers for a variety of reasons, including:
- Lack of competitive wages
- Burnout and stress
- Staffing agencies recruiting nursing home workers to better paying or less stressful jobs
- Vaccine mandates
By the end of 2021, there were approximately 3,000 unfilled positions in Kentucky nursing homes. These nursing home job vacancies included:
- Administrative positions
- Directors of nursing
- Business office positions
- Maintenance workers
- Dietary and food service workers
- Activities workers
- Licensed practical nurses
- Nurse aides
Staffing shortages were reportedly causing:
- Limited capacity and the inability to accept new residents
- Limited activities and services for residents
Staffing shortages could also be creating dangerous conditions for nursing home residents.
What Could Happen in an Understaffed Nursing Home
Understaffed nursing homes place unfair burdens on the staff who do work there and create potentially life-threatening dangers for nursing home residents. Residents in understaffed nursing homes may experience:
- Malnutrition or dehydration. Residents who do not receive food or water regularly or who need supervision while eating or drinking may be at risk for malnutrition or dehydration.
- Medication errors. Some residents may not get their medications on time or may receive the wrong medications.
- Bedsores. Residents who can’t move independently may develop dangerous bedsores.
- Falls. If residents wait too long for staff assistance, they may try to use the bathroom or shower, or move around the facility unattended, and they could suffer severe fall injuries.
- Neglect. Understaffed nursing homes may not have enough workers to provide reasonable care for residents, and some residents may suffer nursing home neglect injuries.
- Abuse. Nursing home workers may become overwhelmed and frustrated by the scope of their responsibilities and take their frustrations out on residents. Nursing homes that are desperate for staff may also overlook warning signs or fail to conduct necessary background checks to keep residents safe.
The reason for the understaffing doesn’t matter if your loved one was hurt as a result.
Can Nursing Homes Solve the Staffing Problem?
Nursing homes may need to be creative to solve the current staffing issues. As always, higher wages may attract more workers. However, if workers can earn the same or more in less stressful jobs, they may stay away from nursing home work. Nursing homes may need to try other things to encourage workers to accept and stay in nursing home jobs. For example, they may:
- Create flexible schedules
- Create an environment where workers enjoy going to work, feel supported, and do not burn out
- Pay over time, sign-on bonuses, and shift bonuses
No one is suggesting that the staffing solution is easy. However, solutions must be found to protect Kentucky’s vulnerable and beloved nursing home residents.
What to Do If Your Loved One Is Hurt in an Understaffed Nursing Home
If your loved one has been hurt in a Kentucky nursing home, we encourage you not to wait another day to take action. Visit our Kentucky Nursing Home Resource Center to get information about your loved one’s Kentucky nursing home and contact our Louisville nursing home abuse lawyers to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.