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How understaffing leads to nursing home abuse

While you may have heard horror stories about nursing homes, such as staff members assaulting patients, the truth is that not all abuse happens as the result of malintent. Many facilities try their best to care for residents but lack the necessary resources. This leads to unintentional, but still inexcusable, neglect that harms the innocent. 

One of the most rampant problems across nursing homes is not having sufficient staff. Weekends suffer the most, reports PBS, when some staff has nearly double the number of patients to care for. Understaffing is a major contributing factor in several types of neglect and abuse.

Substandard care

When nurses and aides become overburdened, they cannot attend to all their duties. They must prioritize tasks, leaving behind some that are not immediately urgent but have long-term consequences if overlooked. For example, it is imperative to reposition patients in their beds to prevent sores from developing. Moving patients may continually end up at the bottom of the list. Over time, this will result in health issues for residents.


Time constraints due to understaffing play a role in the overmedication of patients with dementia. Instead of finding out what an upset patient needs, staff members may overuse antipsychotics to get the person to calm down so they can attend to other residents.

Patient-to-patient abuse

With not enough people monitoring residents, it is easier for patients to harm each other. If no one sees it, it may never even come to light if the victim cannot communicate what is happening.

Unsafe staff

When facilities fall shorthanded on help, they may be less willing to pass over an applicant with a questionable history or fire an employee who faces allegations of abuse. Although they are trying to solve the understaffing problem, they are risking the safety of their patients by hiring and/or retaining unsafe caregivers.

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