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Family members in West Virginia often assume nursing homes will provide safe, reliable care when senior loved ones need it. Unfortunately, there are too many instances where lack of skilled medical care results in or contributes to loss of life. According to one study, approximately 100,000 of the 250,000 deaths attributed to medical mistakes in the United States each year are related to insufficient staffing.

A watchdog group wants to reduce the number of deaths in acute care and nursing facilities related to medical emergencies not detected in time because of staffing shortages. Another elder care organization trains caregivers on how to effectively demand care for loved ones in nursing homes by making their presence known so that call bells will be answered and residents will be properly fed and cared for. A committee co-chair for the group contends that better care is often provided when relatives are around.

The group, based in New York, is fighting for passage of the Safe Staffing Act. This piece of legislation would set specific nurse-to-patient ratios for residents in nursing home and acute care facilities. According to a database of staffing levels of nursing homes throughout the U.S., such facilities provide 3.4 total care staff hours, on average, per resident each day. With RN care staff, the average is .5 hours per resident per day. These figures are significantly below federal recommendation levels. The Safe Staffing Act would mandate a 4-1 ratio.

If family members suspect that a loved one is receiving improper care, a nursing home neglect lawyer can review the case to determine if there are signs of insufficient care or abuse. State and federal statutes also require nursing homes to provide a certain level of care. If there is evidence suggesting such regulations were violated, an attorney may pursue legal action that could include a trial if necessary.

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