Malnutrition is common in seniors with dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a general term for a spectrum of disorders that cause abnormal brain changes. An estimated 60 to 80 percent of patients with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease.
Complications associated with dementia can interfere with a patient’s ability to care for themselves and live independently. Deficits in memory, problem-solving abilities, language, and other cognitive functioning can make basic tasks like remembering to eat and drink difficult. For this reason, many families choose assisted living or a memory care facility to meet their loved one’s needs.
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Image alt text: elderly woman with a memory problem
Image caption: Malnutrition is unfortunately common among seniors with dementia.
The Signs of Malnutrition
Signs of malnutrition include:
- Weight loss
- Slow wound healing
- Trouble concentrating
- Dry skin and hair
- Sunken eyes
- Hollow cheeks
- Muscle loss
- Depression, anxiety, and irritability
If malnutrition is not addressed, it can lead to serious and life-threatening complications. According to the Mayo Clinic, malnutrition may cause physical weakness and a weakened immune system. This increases the risk of infections, falls, fractures, hospitalization, and death.
Other Causes of Malnutrition
Malnutrition is common in seniors with dementia because of cognitive deficits and other factors related to their age and condition. Appetite can naturally decrease with age, and medications used to treat dementia and other health conditions can also decrease a senior’s appetite.
Loneliness, depression, and social isolation can reduce a person’s enjoyment of food and mealtimes. A dementia patient may experience jaw pain, a toothache, or problems with their dentures that make eating uncomfortable. Because of their disease, they may not have the ability to communicate that they are in pain.
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How Malnutrition Is Treated
If a caregiver suspects a senior with dementia may be malnourished, they should act immediately. If the patient is a resident in an assisted living or memory care facility, their caregiver should contact their doctor and alert their family members.
A physician can review a patient’s medications, look for underlying health conditions, and recommend dietary changes, vitamins and supplements, and a daily calorie intake. Caregivers should monitor a patient’s weight, mealtime habits, and medication interactions.
Malnutrition Could Be a Warning Sign of Abuse
If your loved one lives in an assisted living home or memory care facility, you should know that malnutrition is a sign of elder abuse. Malnutrition could mean your family member is experiencing mistreatment or neglect at the hands of those entrusted with their care.
Other Signs of Elder Abuse
Malnutrition is common in seniors with dementia, so it does not necessarily signify abuse, though it is a warning sign. You may have cause for concern if you notice other “red flags.” For example, poor hygiene, an unclean facility, errors involving medication, and overworked staff are all warning signs of neglect.
Frequent falls, unexplained accidents, cuts, bruises, burns, and other injuries are signs of physical abuse. Depression, fear, agitation, and signs of trauma could signal both physical harm and/or psychological abuse.
What You Should Do if You Suspect Abuse
It is never alright to hurt or neglect the elderly. In fact, elder abuse is against the law. If you believe your loved one is being harmed in their assisted living home or care facility, seek help immediately.
You can report abuse to the agency that regulates assisted living homes in your area. In most states, this is the health department. You can also seek help from an agency that advocates against elder abuse. Because abuse is a crime, you may wish to file a report with law enforcement. Finally, consider connecting with an attorney to learn about your options for seeking financial compensation.
You Can Fight for Financial Awards for Your Loved One
If your loved one suffered from malnutrition while in an assisted living home, you may have the right to pursue compensation. At best, your loved one was harmed through unintentional neglect. At worst, they were deliberately mistreated. The people who hurt them should pay.
Our Lawyers Can Help You Fight for Justice
You can pursue the costs of your family member’s medical care, fees paid to the care facility, and expenses related to their relocation. You can also seek damages for your loved one’s pain and suffering. If your loved family member died due to malnutrition, you have the right to sue for their wrongful death.
We can help you with a claim against the assisted living home. If necessary, a lawyer can help you pursue your case in civil court. Do not wait too long to take action. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 today for a free consultation.