The human body relies on several complex systems, operating in unison, to perform the many necessary functions that keep us alive. These systems require a variety of substances called nutrients to help fuel and drive the body on a daily basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Malnourishment refers to an extreme case of lack of nutrition when one or more of these nutrients remain depleted.
Malnourishment is classified as a very serious condition that can have devastating effects on your health and well-being. Some cases of malnourishment can even lead to death, the CDC reports. Understanding the needs of your body and taking steps to ensure you obtain the right nutrients may help you fight the risk of malnourishment and preserve your health.
Causes of Malnourishment
All human beings need nutrients to survive; therefore, no one remains safe from the dangers of malnourishment. To put it simply, if you do not give your body what it needs, you run the risk of undernourishment. If you fail to appropriately address undernourishment, it can lead to malnourishment over time.
Many people rely on others to help feed and keep them healthy. One example of this is infants and small children, who are not able to provide sustenance for themselves. It is important that parents and guardians of children and infants understand their dietary needs in order to keep them effectively nourished. Another example of people who depend on others for their dietary needs includes elderly adults in nursing home facilities. An elderly person may rely on a family member or caretaker to help provide them with health and well-rounded meals. Caregivers who provide inadequate care put them in danger of becoming malnourished.
A lack of access to healthy foods can also lead to malnourishment. Nursing homes have a responsibility to meet the daily living activities of their residents, which extends to implementing individualized nutrition needs into daily meal plans for residents as well as assisting them with eating. Some residents may need their food cut into small pieces or require a caregiver to directly feed them. If a nursing home staff member fails to follow the resident’s individualized nutritional plan or fails to assist the resident during meals, this failure may constitute neglect.
Food and nourishment prove essential for both your physical and mental health, as the brain also relies on nutrients to function. Rapid weight loss and hair loss may signal a lack of nutrients, so keep an eye out for these symptoms in your elderly loved one.
What Does Your Body Need to Prevent Malnourishment?
Everyone has different dietary needs. Young children, for example, require a different amount of nutrients than adults. Elderly people may also have their own specific dietary needs. In general, all people need both essential and non-essential nutrients to survive.
Essential nutrients refer to those that your body cannot produce, so you must obtain them from food sources to prevent malnutrition. Some essential nutrients include:
Your body can also process non-essential nutrients, which add to your overall health as well. An example of a non-essential nutrient includes dietary fiber.
Giving your body what it needs to stay healthy is important. If you have questions about what your elderly loved one living in a nursing home should be eating or if you think they may not receive enough nutrients, you should consult with a medical professional.
Effects of Malnourishment
Malnourishment can have devastating effects on the body and in some cases can become fatal. A number of other chronic diseases may come along with malnourishment. Symptoms of malnourishment include:
- Hair loss or depletion
- Distended or enlarged abdomen
- Bone deformities
- Cognitive function or development issues
- Lack of energy
- Loss of muscle, fat, and other tissue
Contact Us If Your Elderly Loved One Suffers From Malnourishment
Seeing a physician or specialist such as a dietician may help educate you on nutritional needs and develop a meal plan for your loved one that may protect them against malnourishment.
If your loved one depends on others for their nourishment, make sure their caregivers provide nutrient-rich foods. If your loved one lives in a nursing home, and you suspect they are not receiving the nutrients they need, you may take legal action to recover the costs of medical treatment, pain and suffering, and even the cost of relocating your loved one to an adequate facility. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 for a free consultation.