The holiday season should be a fun and festive time, but unfortunately it can be a difficult time within nursing homes and skilled care settings. Many nursing homes struggle throughout the year to find qualified care staff and struggle to maintain enough staff members to provide adequate care for every patient in the nursing facility. During the holiday season, things can actually become much worse in nursing home settings. As seasoned staff members request time off to celebrate with their own families, nursing homes can become even more shorthanded and can end up being staffed by inexperienced people from a staffing service or temps hired just for the holiday season.
Vulnerable residents of a nursing home could end up suffering from neglect as a result of the understaffing and lack of familiar staff members in their care facility. The consequences of neglect can be profound, and sometimes fatal, for seniors who may be dependent upon their caregivers to help them with the very activities they need to stay alive and well each day.
When nursing homes are understaffed due to holiday vacations, there may not be enough staff members available to attend to the important needs of every resident in a timely manner. This can result in problems like bedridden or wheelchair bound patients not being moved frequently enough, leading to the development of bedsores. Patients who need help eating or drinking may not get the necessary assistance, resulting in dehydration or malnutrition. Alzheimer's patients could wander away from care facilities or could hurt themselves by doing something unsafe if there are not staff members available to monitor them and stop the dangerous behavior.
Nursing homes who have to bring in outside or temp staff to cover holiday vacations can also have different problems affecting senior residents. For example, these new staff members may not be as carefully vetted and could be abusive to seniors or could steal from residents. As outsiders who are not regular caregivers, they won't know the patients and so may have less patience and may be more inclined towards abuse. They may also not know protocols at the care facility and could fail to give patients the proper medication or could leave doors open which are supposed to be locked to prevent seniors from wandering.
Because of all the risks that go with understaffing and temp staff that has to be brought in during the holidays, it is important for visitors to nursing homes to ensure they are watchful for signs of abuse or neglect. If you visit a care facility and you think something is amiss, even in the treatment of other residents than the person you came to visit, you should speak up, as you may be able to prevent a tragedy.