Malnutrition in the elderly can have serious consequences on their health and cause premature death. Malnutrition in a nursing home can happen due to many factors, some of which may be due to ill health of the resident, while others can be due to understaffing of the nursing home.
Nursing home residents may need assistance with eating and drinking. If there is not enough staff on the premises to help residents with all basic daily tasks, including assisting with eating and drinking multiple times throughout the day, malnourishment and weight loss can be the result. A study from The Permanente Journal found that 16% of adults above the age of 65, living in community environments such as nursing homes, consume an inadequate diet containing fewer than 1,000 calories per day.
Overview of Malnutrition in Nursing Homes
Malnutrition can occur from not eating sufficient amounts of food or eating food that does not contain enough vitamins and minerals. Nursing home food can also be bland and unappetizing for residents, causing them to eat less than they otherwise might.
It helps to know which symptoms to look out for in your loved one. Some of the symptoms of malnourishment include:
- Weight loss and general weakness
- Tooth decay and other dental problems
- Dry skin
- Change in personality and mental function
There can be other symptoms of malnutrition, so if you notice anything new or concerning you should speak to your loved one’s caregiver to find out what might be causing any worrisome symptoms. It may simply be an ill-fitting or missing denture, for example.
The next step, if you cannot get clarity, could be to ask your loved one’s doctor for advice. In any case, if you suspect that the nursing home is responsible for your loved one’s malnourishment and weight loss, you could speak to a nursing home lawyer to find out about any possible legal avenues open to you and your family.
Laws Protecting Senior Citizens in Nursing Homes
Our elderly citizens should be able to live out the remainder of their years in comfort and safety. There are several state and federal laws that protect the elderly from neglect and mistreatment. When federal funding was first established for nursing homes with the advent of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s, the federal government started to set certain standards for quality of care in nursing homes.
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 was a major milestone for the protection of nursing home residents. It established certain rights for residents, for example, the right to be treated with dignity, and the right to be free of abuse and neglect in the nursing home, among others.
Importantly, the law also set standards for nursing homes. Under the Nursing Home Reform Act, nursing homes need to be staffed adequately and ensure individualized care of a good standard for each resident. There are many additional requirements, such as keeping accurate and updated medical records for each resident, and to ensure that each resident receives adequate personal care, medication, and nutrition for their specific needs. Several states also have their own laws that exist next to the federal laws governing nursing homes.
Despite all the rules and regulations, nursing home abuse and neglect still happens. Unfortunately, we can only guess the extent to which elder abuse happens. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) states that not only is there a lack of awareness and training among nursing home staff on detecting abuse and neglect, but the elderly themselves often do not report neglect for fear of retaliation.
It is therefore important that you take action to investigate further if you suspect that something is amiss with your relative or spouse in the nursing home. The laws can only protect our seniors when we report neglect and abuse, and hold those responsible to account.
Malnutrition Stemming From Negligence
Malnutrition can affect the elderly in several different ways. If not remedied promptly, it can lead to organ failure and death. You can help detect neglectful malnutrition in nursing homes by observing your loved one, being around at mealtimes, and raising any concerns with the staff of the nursing home.
Nursing homes can be neglectfully causing malnourishment and dehydration in different ways, including:
- Not assisting residents with eating and drinking at mealtimes.
- Not offering liquids or snacks when asked to.
- Not observing the unique dietary needs of residents.
- Offering sub-par food lacking in nutrients.
The effects of malnutrition do not only cause unnecessary suffering and illnesses, they can also cause added expense in the form of medical bills, as well as emotional anguish, to your loved one and your family. You might wish to take legal action to protect not only your family from current and future losses, but to also help protect other seniors from the same fate.
If we fail to take action to protect our seniors, some nursing homes will continue to put profit above the interests of their residents, causing unnecessary suffering for the elderly and their families.
Seeking Legal Representation From a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm for a free consultation with a member of our team where you can ask any questions you have about malnourishment and nursing home neglect: (800) 842-6336.