Study Compares Rates of Bedsores and Other Problems at Nursing Homes

A recently published academic study set out to examine differences in staffing levels and the quality of resident care between for-profit nursing home companies and government-owned facilities. The study, headed by a professor at the University of California-San Francisco's School of Nursing, sheds interesting light on nursing home neglect problems in the U.S.

The study focused on the ten largest nursing home chains in the country, and found that they all had lower staffing hours for registered nurses and other nurses than public facilities. In addition, facilities owned by the largest nursing home chains:

  • Had 36 percent higher rates of deficiencies in meeting standards for Medicare and Medicaid participation
  • Had 41 percent higher rates of serious deficiencies under federal nursing home standards
  • Sometimes showed even worse deficiency rates after large companies were in turn purchased by larger private equity companies

The authors targeted nurse staffing levels as a key measure of nursing home care due to previous studies showing that the presence of nurses leads to fewer bedsores (pressure ulcers), improved functional status of residents and lower mortality rates. Neglect, abuse and other examples of poor quality resident care have all been associated with lower levels of licensed staff.

Bedsores are a common result of understaffing of nursing homes. Painful and easily infected pressure sores can develop on the heels, ankles, buttocks or hips of patients who have mobility limitations. Depending on the nature of the patient's immobility, other common sites for decubitus ulcers include shoulders, the spine, elbows or the back or side of a person's head.

Family members and other loved ones who see symptoms of bed sores or other evidence of neglect or abuse should immediately and emphatically inform the staff. When nursing home negligence leads to serious health problems or a wrongful death, a personal injury attorney can explain whether legal intervention may be necessary to hold an understaffed nursing home accountable.