In the 1980s, Congress found the level of provided care in nursing homes was insufficient to keep residents healthy. To address these concerns, Congress enacted the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act as part of the 1987 federal Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA 1987). Nursing homes seeking federal aid — Medicare and Medicaid —must comply with this law and others to prevent nursing home abuse.
Requirements Under OBRA 1987
OBRA 1987 states that each individual living within a nursing home must receive an individualized personal care plan that includes care from all necessary medical professionals. The act also requires:
- Access to high quality of life and care
- Freedom from unnecessary restraints, either physical or chemical
- Maintained levels of daily activities, including walking and bathing
These regulations require a sufficient level of staffing all day, every day. Many nursing homes still prefer to remain understaffed so they can increase profits. Other facilities refuse to pay their staff sufficiently, which leads to disgruntled employees and high rates of turnover. Ultimately, poor staffing results in resident injuries or even wrongful death.
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Poor Staffing Leads to Poor Resident Care
Personalized care plans require enough staff to handle each resident’s needs. In an understaffed nursing home, that level of care is impossible. Indeed, improper staffing or understaffing often leads to many harmful situations, including:
- Missed medication
- Inadequate food or fluid intake
- Pressure sores from lack of movement
- The use of physical or chemical restraints
- Physical or sexual abuse
Any of these incidents or actions can cause severe or life-threatening injuries, including infection, malnutrition or dehydration. In severe cases, it may even lead to wrongful death.
Certain Elderly Populations Are at Greater Risk
In addition to overhauling the type of care expected in nursing homes, OBRA 1987 changed the way inspectors must perform their reviews of each facility. Instead of relying on reports, inspectors now interact with residents personally to hear first-hand about the level and quality of care.
Despite the requirements of OBRA 1987, facility owners and staff have found ways to hide neglect or abuse. This is especially true for abused residents who are unable to clearly communicate, such as individuals with dementia or those who do not speak English. The best way we can all protect this vulnerable population is to ensure we know the signs of nursing home abuse and neglect and speak up whenever we have concerns.
Contact us at (847) 869-9100 to make arrangements to discuss your case with our attorney today.