If your spouse or parent lives in a nursing home, you may think that they are well cared for with all their wants and needs taken care of. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) estimated that a staggering 20 percent of nursing home residents have some sort of malnutrition.
It may be up to you to notice any changes in your loved one such as rapid weight loss and investigate the reasons. When you notice worrying signs and symptoms in your loved one, you will want to act in order to protect your relative from further deterioration.
Some of the causes of malnourishment in a nursing home can be physical issues of the resident such as ill-fitting dentures, medication causing malabsorption of nutrients, gastrointestinal issues, and chronic illnesses, to name just a few.
Sometimes, an elderly resident may suffer from depression, or the recent move to a nursing home reduced their appetite and enjoyment of food temporarily. Getting used to a different diet in the nursing home can also cause some weight loss.
However, malnourishment can be the result of criminal neglect in a nursing home. If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from malnutrition due to neglect, you should address this with the nursing facility immediately. It may also be a good idea to speak to a nursing home neglect lawyer.
Determining Whether Malnourishment Resulted from Negligence
The best course of action is to first and foremost speak to your loved one and ask them about mealtimes and food in general. You might want to find out whether they enjoy the nursing home food and ask them whether they receive assistance from staff at mealtimes and throughout the day.
If your loved one is non-verbal, there are other signs that could point to general neglect and lack of adequate staffing of the facility. Perhaps you noticed that general hygiene in common areas is lacking, or residents look unkempt and are wearing soiled clothes.
Another option to find out whether there is any neglect at a facility could be to visit unannounced during mealtimes and observe whether there is enough staff to assist the residents with eating and drinking.
Signs of a Malnourished Elderly Resident in a Nursing Home
When you notice any signs of neglect on your loved one, you will want to act immediately. Malnourishment and dehydration can go hand-in-hand in nursing homes and both are extremely dangerous for elderly people. Some of the effects of malnourishment include:
- Decreased organ function.
- Weight and muscle loss.
In addition to these effects, malnutrition can leave your loved one vulnerable to a host of other conditions such as infections, slower wound healing, and a general deterioration in health and body condition, amongst others.
Ensuring Adequate Nutrition of Residents in Nursing Homes is Law
A nursing home is, by law, responsible for ensuring adequate nutrition and hydration of their residents and may be held liable if it fails to uphold this responsibility. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 specifically mentions the responsibilities of a nursing home when it comes to the nutritional needs of residents.
Not only are nursing home meals supposed to meet the nutritional and special dietary demands of each resident, but the nursing home is also generally responsible to maintain the physical well-being of each resident to a high level. This includes providing assistance with meals and making sure that a resident is well nourished and well hydrated.
Nursing home responsibility also, importantly, includes noticing any health issues caused by malnourishment in a timely manner and bringing them to the attention of the resident’s doctor, if needed. If you noticed signs of malnutrition in your loved one, or worse, your loved one already suffered from adverse health effects resulting from dehydration or malnutrition, and you feel that you are being met with apathy by the nursing home staff, you can take steps to hold a nursing home responsible.
Contact a Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer for Help
When you make the decision to entrust your loved one to a nursing home, the last thing on your mind is that they could suffer from neglect in the place you carefully selected for them. You hoped they would be comfortable and cared for around the clock. Unfortunately, nursing home neglect happens despite federal and state laws protecting seniors and their rights.
Malnourishment is a grave danger to your loved one’s health and does not only cause many ailments but can also contribute to a premature death. If your loved one suffered the effects of malnourishment, you are not powerless. You can take action and hold a nursing home responsible.
You may be able to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit and receive compensation for any monetary losses as well as pain or anguish suffered as a result of nursing home neglect. Holding a nursing home to account can also protect you and your loved one from future medical bills related to the neglect.
Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today for a free consultation and to determine whether you could receive compensation at (800) 842-6336.