Is Malnutrition a Sign of Nursing Home Neglect?
Studies reveal that about 1,600,000 older adults reside in nursing facilities in the US, with around 20% of them dealing with malnutrition. Malnutrition in the nursing home may result in serious health consequences, such as weight loss, depression, and worsening chronic diseases in nursing home residents. While some cases of malnutrition are not entirely due to the negligence of the nursing home staff, most are the direct consequence of negligence.
Malnutrition resulting from neglect is one of the many forms of nursing home abuse. It has serious consequences that can damage the immune system, making the elderly more susceptible to infection and the likelihood of illness complications and hospitalization.
Contact our personal injury attorneys if you think the causes of your loved one’s malnourishment are due to nursing home neglect. Call us at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation with the Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC.
What Causes Nursing Home Malnutrition?
Medical issues and a lack of quality food intake prevent older people from getting proper nutrition. In some instances, physical and mental difficulties may affect the appetite of older adults. However, malnutrition can also be a direct result of nursing home abuse where staffs neglect to provide the standard level of care.
If your loved one at a nursing home has lost weight unexpectedly, you may be concerned about possible nursing home neglect.
Physical Problems That Cause Malnutrition
Malnutrition is generally associated with eating less or consuming a nutrient-deficient diet. It can be a result of physical, social, and psychological factors such as the following:
- Changes associated with age
- Disease-related complications
- Poor dental health
- Behavioral or psychological issues
- Social isolation
The adverse physical and mental effects of malnutrition require medical attention. A doctor can help address changes in appetite and other issues regarding the nutrition and health of elderly family members.
Lack of Nursing Staff Contributes to Malnutrition in Nursing Homes
In addition to physical factors, lack of staff often contributes to nursing home abuse. Many home care institutions are understaffed, resulting in the facility’s failure to provide standard care to the elderly. Saving on costs and employing only a few staff members may result in one certified staff assistant having to help several residents eat and drink during mealtime.
Understaffing is directly linked to various nursing home abuse cases. A few staff attending to the needs of several patients can lead to dehydration and malnutrition, which is considered a form of nursing home abuse.
How Staff Members Can Prevent Malnutrition in Nursing Homes
These preventative measures can help resolved malnutrition among nursing home residents:
- Closely monitor weight. Weight is a valuable indicator of whether one is malnourished. A notable weight loss necessitates regular monitoring to identify the cause and determine ways to correct the problem.
- Keep an eye on calorie intake. Preventing malnutrition in nursing facilities requires having a care plan that defines the quantity and quality of meals to serve a particular patient each day. The staff should offer the proper amount and quality of nourishment to the resident and monitor them throughout mealtimes to ensure they consume sufficient nutrients.
- Provide an appropriate diet. Feeding residents with a proper meal according to their needs is essential in addressing malnutrition. For example, staff may need to serve food cut into smaller pieces for patients who have difficulty swallowing.
- Ensure proper hydration. Lack of hydration may put residents at a higher risk of malnutrition and other health issues. To ensure that a resident gets a balanced diet, the staff should keep track of fluid and food consumption.
- Provide feeding assistance. A long-term care facility may need to increase staff to provide individualized feeding assistance to the elderly living in nursing homes.
According to the National Institute of Aging and National Institutes of Health, social activities can help support healthy aging. Nursing home residents often face the threat of social isolation, but long-term care staff can create an enjoyable dining experience.
Legal Responsibilities of Nursing Homes
Family members decide to put their loved ones in long-term care facilities to help them with daily tasks and demands.
The long-term care facility has the legal responsibility of offering a balanced diet to all residents and modifying meals for patients with nutritional issues due to another underlying medical condition.
Nursing home facilities are expected to have a record for each patient. The file includes information on dietary needs and restrictions, so certified nursing assistants in the facility can provide alternate food options and dietary help for a resident. An example is when a nursing home staff needs to offer thinly sliced meals to a resident with dysphagia to ease swallowing problems.
The amount of care is often questioned when evaluating the underlying causes of malnutrition in nursing homes. If a long-term care facility is understaffed, caregivers may rush through to provide for each patient's need, overlooking vital information in residents’ medical profiles. In addition, inexperienced caregivers may ignore symptoms of malnutrition and the need for nutritional intervention in the food plans of older individuals.
Nonetheless, none of these circumstances exempts caregivers or nursing homes from legal responsibility for preventable malnutrition.
Nursing home residents are entitled to a standard level of care, which includes proper nutrition. Malnutrition is not something that happens overnight.
What to Do If You Suspect a Family Member Is Abused in a Nursing Home
Malnutrition in a nursing home is an indicator of nursing home abuse, especially if a patient has no medical issues that could lead to malnutrition. Remember that medical help is needed right away if a person is malnourished.
In the event of abuse or neglect, older adults and their families have the right to pursue legal action against a nursing home. They should start by informing the nursing home management and the authorities about their findings.
In rare instances, a family may be forced to bring a lawsuit against the nursing facility to get just compensation. They may also file a claim with the nursing home's insurance provider for any losses or injuries resulting directly from the nursing home abuse. When submitting any of these cases, residents and their families have the right to legal counsel.
Contact Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC for a free case evaluation with one of our attorneys. We offer a free case review to help family members understand their legal rights and determine their options.
Elderly Malnutrition in Nursing Home FAQs
Our personal injury law firm understands that many families have unanswered questions about dealing directly with nursing homes in their insurance companies to ensure that their loved ones are treated with dignity and respect. An attorney from our law office has answered some of those questions below.
What Are the Main Signs of Malnutrition in Elderly People?
Malnutrition in a nursing home may worsen existing health issues due to the patients’ already weakened immune systems. Physical and mental health problems may arise as a result of malnutrition. Family members of nursing home patients should watch for signs of malnutrition in their loved ones.
Some of the signs of malnutrition to look out for include but are not limited to the following:
- Oral symptoms: Watch out for canker sores and excessive redness in the mouth. Other effects of malnutrition include thrush and yeast infection that manifests as white patches on the cheeks and tongue.
- Weakness and loss of body weight: A patient may feel weak due to not getting enough nutritious food. Other residents may experience excessive weight loss and muscle mass. The Federal Regulations Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 considered a weight loss of more than 5% of the bodyweight unacceptable in a nursing home setting.
- Eye Symptoms: Malnutrition may also cause vision changes in older adults since the body needs adequate nutrition to function well.
- Pressure sore: Pressure sores are signs that an older individual is not eating the appropriate quantity and quality of food. The skin becomes brittle due to the body not receiving proper nutrition. Pressure ulcers can also indicate the possibility of other forms of nursing home abuse.
Malnutrition is harmful to anyone regardless of age, negatively affecting older adults. Malnourished residents in a nursing home are more likely to fall, experience several hospital admissions, and suffer from other health problems.
What Are the Common Causes of Malnutrition in an Older Adult?
- Poor oral health: Oral health problems, such as ill-fitting dentures and missing teeth, may cause difficulty in eating. Family members or a representative can request the home care to offer texture-modified food to ensure a healthy diet for the patient.
- Cognitive impairment: A nursing home resident with cognitive impairment is at high risk of malnutrition. Severe cognitive impairment may affect the patient’s ability to perform day-to-day tasks such as eating.
- Medications: Taking multiple medicationsto address an underlying health condition may lead to changes in taste and loss of appetite.
- Depression: Symptoms of depression are a predictor of malnutrition as it can cause the elderly to lose their appetite and the joy of eating.
How Does Severe Therapeutic Dieting Cause Malnutrition?
Physicians often prescribe a strict therapeutic diet to address underlying health problems such as diabetes. However, the result may not justify the use of restrictive food intake, especially among frail older people who are at risk of malnutrition.
How Do Nursing Homes Contribute to Malnutrition?
Malnutrition is not always associated with underlying medical conditions and aging in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. There are instances when dehydration and malnutrition can be signs of neglect and abuse in long-term care facilities.
Below are some of how long-term care facility staff may be responsible for the neglect and malnutrition of a resident:
- Neglects to assist with eating and drinking
- Failure to monitor dietary requirements
- Medical neglect
- Lack of social and emotional support
Is It Possible to Reverse Malnutrition?
Yes. Proper supervision and monitoring of food intake can help reverse malnutrition among elderly adults. For example, the nursing facility may assign staff in the dining room to assist the seniors with their meals.
A Nursing Home Malnutrition Injury Lawyer Can Help
Elderly residents at a long-term care facility often suffer from medical complications. A lack of adequate care and nutrition may swiftly lead to more severe complications and even death. A thorough investigation is required if you suspect a resident in a long-term care facility is suffering from malnutrition due to nursing home negligence.
Prompt action is vital. When the fundamental rights of your loved one are being violated, it's time to seek legal help. A personal injury lawsuit may be required to seek compensation against a nursing home that fails to provide adequate nutrition and care for its patients.
Schedule a free case review through this contact form or call at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call). All confidential or sensitive information you share with our law firm remains private through an attorney-client relationship.