The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is recommending tighter guidelines for nursing homes because the nationwide staff shortage is literally jeopardizing patients’ lives.

A study by the federal agency assessed the current status of nursing homes and concluded that inadequate staffing is compromising patients’ health. Patients are developing life-threatening conditions such as malnutrition, dehydration, abnormal weight loss and severe bedsores because of the lack of adequate nursing home workers.

The nursing home industry argues that cuts in government spending has caused this shortage and facilities cannot provide proper care without more financial help. Government programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, pay for the care of nearly 70 percent of the 1.5 million nursing home residents across the United States. A strong economy, industry representatives say, also makes it difficult for nursing homes to attract and retain good employees.

According to the HHS study, more than half of the nation’s nursing homes fall below proposed federal standards. The study recommendations include requiring that each patient receive a minimum of two hours of daily care from nursing aides. Nursing homes will need to hire thousands more nurses and nursing aides, the study states.

Earlier this week, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the Nursing Home Quality of Care Improvement Act, which includes harsher penalties for nursing homes that cause harm to their patients. Fines would range from $2,000 to $25,000. The proposed bill would also reinstate the Boren Amendment that requires states to provide “reasonable and adequate” payments to nursing homes. Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said this week that repealing the Boren Amendment as part of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act was a “huge mistake.”


By Katrina Woznicki Copyright HealthScout News

Inadequate Care at Nursing Homes


A new study gives a disturbing picture of what’s happening to thousands of elderly Americans living in nursing homes.

According to research released by The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation, at least one-third of the 1.6 million nursing home residents in the United States may suffer from dehydration and malnutrition, which can aggravate pre-existing medical conditions and lead to weight loss and even death.

A 1987 federal law requires nursing homes to meet residents’ nutritional needs. However, nursing homes may not be meeting these requirements due to staff shortages, high turnover or lack of individual care, among other reasons, the study suggests. Such obstacles can lead to inconsistent care for residents.

“Malnutrition, dehydration and weight loss in nursing homes constitute one of the largest silent epidemics in this country,” says The Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis.

Researchers suggest the problem could be alleviated by increasing staff so there are enough employees to provide food and drink to residents, many of whom need assistance in eating

Katrina Woznicki