Malnurtrition in Nursing Homes can be a Result of Under-Staffing

According to a story by the Courier-Journal, the son of one nursing home resident said his mother, who was blind and suffered from dementia, would sometimes go without eating because the nursing home didn't have enough staff to feed her. Often, he said, he'd arrive at the home to see a cold meal tray sitting out in front of his mother and he'd have to feed her himself. Other times, he said, he'd ask if she'd eaten and be told she hadn't been hungry.

“I don't know how many meals she didn't get,” said the man, whose mother died last year at age 79 at a different nursing home. “I got to the point where I made sure I was there during lunch or dinner. It was a matter of inadequate staffing.”

While the home's owners defend their care and staffing, the man has joined other local families who are pushing for a state law that would impose minimum staffing levels at nursing homes statewide. House Bill 157 would require at least one nurse's aide for every nine residents, one nurse for every 21 residents and a registered nurse supervisor for facilities with at least 75 beds. These numbers would be for the day shift and staffing ratios would be smaller for evening and night shifts. Nursing homes that didn't comply would face limits on taking new patients and fines of up to $1,000 a day.

Thirty seven states already have such laws,but the bill's sponsors don't expect it to get very far in the General Assembly — because of lobbying and money from the nursing home industry.

The proposed law is “unnecessary,” said the president of the Association of Health Care Facilities. “Numbers don't equate to quality. Staffing is very important in a facility, and there is no incentive for a facility to not meet the needs of its residents.”

Advocates argue that the state's nursing homes are are full of problems related to low staffing.An examination of the state's 47 nursing homes showed that staffing is considered “very poor” or “poor” at 21 homes, and “well above average” at only three. For more, read the story. __________________________________________________________

Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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