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Posted July 1, 2009

Ask An Expert

Elderly Care: Frustrated by Inadequate Nursing Home Staffing

Q. Is anyone working on improving staffing within nursing homes? In California, they have a ridiculous rule. They take the total number of patients divided by the amount of total staff to meet the 3.2 nursing hours per patient day requirement. So, actually, the nursing home will never be short on any shift with this approach. Please let me know whom to talk to, and please don't tell me to contact the Department of Public Health because they are completely worthless. 

David C., Fontana, California.

A. There is an organization in California called California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, which is fighting for more staffing, among other important issues. Its website is www.canhr.org/. The ridiculous formula you cite is used throughout the country. Focusing on 3.2 nursing hours is grossly inadequate to take care of a resident in a nursing home. Even this staffing requirement is rarely checked. In fact, federal and state regulatory agencies don't even send in accountants to check the accuracy of the payroll records. 

This answer is provided by Jack Halpern, MPS, LNHA, an eldercare advocate and a licensed nursing home administrator based in New York City. Halpern, a nationally recognized expert on eldercare issues, is the author of many articles on eldercare and nursing home abuse, and is the CEO of My Elder Advocate. His website is www.myelderadvocate.com, and he can be reached at jhalpern@myelderadvocate.com.

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