The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) established regulatory requirements and guidelines for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that specify how nursing homes must provide nutritious, well-balanced meals and snacks that cater to the dietary needs of each resident.
Nutrition and Menus
There is a direct relationship between nutrition and health. With many nursing home residents dealing with health challenges, their nutritional requirements are incredibly important. Nutritional therapy requirements exist for certain chronic diseases, and a nursing home must provide appropriate nutrition for its residents’ specific health and dietary needs. The nutritional guidelines established by CMS requires that the diets provided for residents in nursing homes promote quality of life, prevent malnutrition and disease, and prevent weight loss or gain.
The law requires the approval and advanced planning of any menus used in a nursing home. Each resident must receive the recommended daily allowances (RDA) specific to their health condition. Substitutions should be made available for any resident that requests them, and the nursing home must accommodate food preferences within reason. Each resident must receive three full meals per day and a snack at bedtime. The nursing home must cook food thoroughly, so it is safe to eat, not too bland or spicy, not burned, and served at the correct temperature.
Specific Dietary Needs
Some residents have additional or specific dietary needs or restrictions. Some residents are only able to eat soft food. Other residents that may have tremors or Parkinson’s disease should have special equipment or utensils so that they can eat as independently as possible. When a resident is unable to feed themselves, a nursing home staff member must be available to help feed them.
Doctor-prescribed diets are vital for patients with diabetes, or who have renal or bariatric issues. Some residents may have large wounds or nonhealing pressure sores and they must also receive a certain amount or type of calories that will promote healing and prevent further weight loss. Whatever the specific dietary needs of a resident, the nursing home staff should make every effort to ensure that their residents receive the correct dietary nutrition required by their doctor, their health needs, and the law.
Specific Medical Conditions
Some elderly patients with certain health conditions may find it more difficult to eat their specific nutritional needs. Nursing homes must ensure that residents are safe and healthy under their care. If a resident has dementia, they may not remember to eat or may have a decrease in appetite due to the decrease in their mental abilities. Other medical conditions such as dysphagia (trouble swallowing) or the decreased ability to taste or smell foods could also result in residents becoming averse to eating their required nutritional requirements. Some medications decrease appetite, and in some cases with less physical activity, residents simply are not as hungry as they once were.
Regardless of a nursing home resident’s challenges regarding their appetite or ability to consume food, the nursing home staff has a responsibility to ensure that residents are not undernourished or at risk for malnutrition.
What to Do When a Nursing Home Does Not Meet Nutritional Needs
Every state has established guidelines for nursing homes regarding the requirements to meet for their resident’s nutritional needs. Even with federal and state guidelines, malnutrition continues to cause worsening health conditions and increased mortality in nursing homes. Statistics show that up to 70% of all nursing home residents leave one-fourth or more of their food uneaten at meals and that up to 80% of nursing home residents need dietary supplements to receive their necessary nutrition. Failing to meet their nutritional needs, 25% of nursing home residents experience weight loss.
If you notice that your elderly loved one has lost weight, is not eating enough food, or getting enough nutritional food, their health may be at risk. As a loved one of a nursing home resident, you have the right to voice your concerns and file a complaint to the nursing home staff without any fear of retaliation or punishment. The nursing home has a legal duty to address the issue promptly. Report any unresolved complaints regarding the nutritional needs of your loved one to the State Survey and Certification Agency for a full investigation.
Contact a Nursing Home Lawyer
If you believe your elderly loved one’s nutritional needs are not being met in their nursing home, visit with one of our nursing home lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm. Please call us at (800) 842-6336 to help you determine your legal rights. We can help you and your loved one. We do not avoid difficult cases, and you do not pay unless we win.