New Jersey bill would set minimum nursing home staffing ratios

Reviews of nursing home staffing ratios have had poor results.

In September 2015, PolitickerNJ interviewed New Jersey state Senator Brian Stack about a bill he has introduced in the state legislature that would specify minimum certified nursing assistant-to-patient ratios in state nursing homes. After experiencing state nursing homes first hand when his mother needed nursing home care before her May 2015 death, he feels state nursing homes are often understaffed and that state CNAs are underpaid, according to the article.

He notes that CNAs are responsible for direct care like bathing and feeding as well as for emotional support and companionship. His bill would help to ensure that CNAs would not be "stretched too thin" and that they are able to provide adequate care.

Sen. Stack observed CNAs who were assigned to 20 to 25 patients at once. His bill, if passed, would require these ratios:

  • Day shifts: one to six
  • Evening shifts: one to nine
  • Night shifts: one to 14

Other sources support the need observed by Sen. Stack. For example, in 2014, an AARP report (in conjunction with the Commonwealth Fund and SCAN Foundation) ranked New Jersey second from the last of all states in the percentage of high-risk nursing home patients with bed sores, which are sometimes preventable by regular repositioning of the body, a task typically performed by CNAs, according to NJ.com.

In addition, watchdog organization Families for Better Care, while giving New Jersey an overall grade of B in its 2014 nursing home report cards that compared nursing home care in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, ranked New Jersey 43 rd in the category of direct care staffing hours per resident, earning the state an F in that category.

These problems do not exactly instill confidence in New Jersey residents with loved ones who need care in the state's nursing homes. Unfortunately, nursing home negligence and abuse occurs far too often. Family members and friends must remain vigilant in monitoring their institutionalized elders.

Nursing home negligence normally falls into these categories of abuse:

  • Physical: subpar medical care, assault, medication mistakes
  • Mental and emotional: humiliation, isolation, yelling
  • Sexual: unwanted touching, rape and assault, exposure to pornography
  • Financial: theft of personal property
  • Neglect: dehydration, malnutrition, poor hygiene, filthy conditions, failure to provide sufficient medical care

If a family suspects abuse or neglect, after securing emergency care if necessary, consulting an attorney with nursing home neglect experience is a good idea. The lawyer can launch an investigation into the matter that includes review of records, citations, fines, certifications and licensure, as well as interviews of witnesses and the patient, if able to communicate.

Legal counsel can investigate whether others have sued the facility or filed complaints with governmental agencies or law enforcement. The lawyer will also advise the family about how to report the situation to governmental authorities and about legal remedies such as a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

From offices in Nutley, New Jersey, the attorneys of Piro Zinna Cifelli Paris & Genitempo, LLC., represent clients in matters of nursing home negligence, abuse and neglect.