How many nurses does your loved one’s retirement home have on staff? How many doctors? How many therapists, nutritionists, and wound care specialists? I recently asked a local nurse – who also happens to be a dear friend – what I should make the public more aware of with regard to our state’s senior care facilities. Her answer? Staffing.
As she reminded me, state law allows 1 CNA to be in charge of up to 15 patients during the day. At night, the ratio increases to 1 CNA per 22 patients. In her words, “that is too many residents for one person to be responsible for.” She believes – as do I – that our seniors’ health and safety is threatened by these high patient-to-nurse ratios. Even though state law allows it, that does not make the practice safe. In this case, the law permits needless risk by failing to require the safest practices. In other words, even the law itself violates the cardinal rule of “safety first, safety always.” Therefore, compliance with South Carolina law is not a viable defense when nursing home negligence allows bedsores, sepsis, or medication errors to occur.
Bedsores, also known as pressure or decubitus ulcers, are one of the most common injuries that arise from improper staffing and supervision. As my dear friend told me, “One nurse cannot properly assess” and attend to 15 or 22 patients at one time. Not surprisingly, she recently took over treatment of a patient with multiple bed sores. She blames the sores on staffing deficiencies.
Therefore, if you are in search of a nursing home, or if you already have a loved one in a nursing facility, find out how many patients each nurse must care for. Ask about the number of decubitus ulcers the facility has been forced to report in the last five years. Determine whether the nursing home is meeting minimal standards, or whether they are truly committed to patient safety.
My job as a South Carolina elder abuse lawyer is not only to go after big verdicts – it is to promote the safety and well-being of every senior citizen. I hope this information benefits your family and makes our state a little safer for those who raised us. If you have questions or need guidance, call me at (803) 790-2800.