Staffing shortages in Chicago nursing homes and throughout the U.S. have worsened over the last year, putting residents at risk for neglect or abuse. Approximately 15,000 nursing homes operate across the country, providing residency and care for people who need short-term rehabilitation or have long-term illnesses. Medical professionals, including certified nursing assistants, nurses, nurse aides, and physicians, staff nursing home facilities, caring for residents around the clock and tending to their medical needs.
Nursing Homes Lack Adequate Staffing
A study conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found a sharp increase in the number of nursing homes reporting staffing shortages between May and December of 2020. Data from the study showed an increase in shortages of aides from 17.4% in May 2020 to 20.6% in December of that year. Facilities also reported lacking enough nurses with the study finding an increase from 15% in May to 18.5% in December. In December of 2020, as many as 2,836 nursing homes reported not having enough aides to give their residents optimal care.
Causes for Nursing Home Staff Shortages
Numerous factors contribute to staffing shortages in nursing homes. Traditionally, some medical professionals and others with the qualifications to work in long-term care facilities have opted for other jobs due to the type of work, lack of recognition, and less-than-competitive wages. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, shortages worsened as workers had to stay home if they felt sick or contracted the coronavirus, take time off or quit to care for family members with the coronavirus, or take leaves or quit to care for children whose daycares or schools shut down. Further, many nursing homes did not have enough personal protection equipment, such as masks and gowns, leading many to pursue jobs with less risk.
Effects of Staffing Shortages in Nursing Homes
Staffing shortages in nursing homes may directly correlate to lowered standards for resident care. Of the respondents in one survey, 85% indicated their loved ones experienced a decline in physical abilities over the last year and 87% noted a decline in their loved ones’ physical appearances. Having higher resident-to-staff ratios adds more work and stress for staff, which may decrease the amount of one-on-one time staff members have to spend with residents. Additionally, staff may be rushed to accomplish all their tasks, potentially leading to inattention, missed steps, or other issues that may endanger residents.