There are 4 types of malnutrition, according to the World Health Organization. This includes deficiencies, stunting, being underweight, and wasting. Each type of malnutrition stems from a unique cause.
Diet can have a significant impact on your health. Certain medical conditions and complications are more likely for malnourished patients. For nursing home residents, maintaining proper nutrition is key for healing. For instance, if patients do not have enough energy to fully participate in rehabilitation, they may not be able to fully recover.
Malnutrition can also refer to the excesses of certain nutrients, which can lead to obesity and other health conditions.
Nutritional deficiencies are when you do not get enough of a specific nutrient. This can occur when the body is not able to absorb the nutrients from food or if there is not enough food containing a specific nutrient being consumed. For instance, scurvy is the condition stemming from not having enough vitamin C. Certain medical conditions may make absorbing nutrients more difficult.
Stunting is the term used to describe someone who has a low height for their age. This can happen after frequent infections or from not having enough nutrition. This is not typically a problem within nursing home facilities, but rather for children.
Undernutrition or people who are undernourished lack food calories or nutrition. Typically, people are considered underweight when their body mass is 15% below what is considered the normal range for a person’s age and height. This is one of the most common types of malnutrition that can be found in nursing homes.
Wasting is the term for having too low of a weight for their age. This often occurs because of a lack of access to food or because of disease. This is also not one of the primary types of malnutrition seen in nursing homes.
Identifying and detecting malnutrition in seniors can be somewhat challenging, as many seniors have other interrelated conditions and take medications that can influence their weight. Some signs of malnutrition to look for include:
- Unexpected weight loss.
- Increased number of illnesses or infections.
- Poor blood circulation or feeling cold.
- Difficulty recovering from illnesses and wounds.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Feelings of depression.
- Irritable behavior.
This list illustrates some of the symptoms of malnutrition. It is possible that someone experiencing malnutrition will experience other symptoms that should be evaluated by a medical professional. The sooner that you can address malnutrition, the easier it is to find the root cause of the problem before the patient loses too much weight.
If the weight loss comes from another medical condition or as a natural part of the dying process during the last few months of life, your loved one’s doctor can provide you with some guidance about how to manage the effects. Your loved one could even require nutrition through an IV or other measures to increase dietary intake, if that is the problem.
Certain medical conditions that affect seniors may increase their likelihood of undernutrition. This includes dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and depression. Many nursing homes have patients who already undergo treatment for these conditions. Staff trained to work with these populations should undergo specialized training to ensure that these patients do not suffer the consequences of malnutrition.
Complications from Malnutrition
The complications from malnutrition are often more severe than the physical change in the person’s appearance. Malnutrition complications include:
- Increased risk of infection: Without the right nutrition, seniors are at an increased risk of acquiring infections. In many cases, it is also more difficult to heal infections.
- Decreased bone mass: Malnutrition can also cause a decrease in bone mass, which could potentially lead to bones that break more easily.
- Higher risk for hospitalization: Malnourished people are at a higher risk for hospitalization.
- Higher risk of death: Malnourished people are also at an increased risk of dying than those with proper nutrition. Simply the fact of not receiving enough nutrition increases the odds of something happening to them.
These are just some of the possible complications from malnutrition. For seniors who may also need care for other conditions, malnutrition can be particularly problematic. It could make it more difficult for them to recover or make progress toward a treatment plan.
Contact Us Today if You Suspect Nursing Home Neglect
For nursing home residents, malnutrition can be a sign that your loved one is not receiving the care that they need. In a worst-case scenario, malnutrition could be a sign of nursing home neglect. If you have any concerns about your loved one’s malnutrition, it is important to investigate the situation further. If you want to discuss your situation with a nursing home abuse lawyer, call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.