According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), seniors aged 65 and older make up approximately 85% of all nursing home residents in the United States. While some seniors still have the physical capacity to feed themselves, others require assistance eating and drinking. In either case, nursing home staff have an obligation to make sure residents eat properly.
The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care outlines the many elements of nursing home neglect and abuse. Their consumer fact sheet states that neglect refers to the failure to provide care in a way that avoids harm and pain or the failure to react to a potentially harmful situation. The organization lists the lack of assistance with eating and drinking as a form of neglect, as it can lead to malnutrition and dehydration.
The Importance of Nutrition for the Elderly
As a basic factor of human health, nutrition plays a primary role in the prevention of disease and overall well-being. Residents in nursing homes rely on staff to care for their needs, and employees must ensure the consumption of adequate nutrition on a daily basis. This involves more than simply providing healthy meals and snacks; it extends to monitoring residents’ eating habits, noting any refusals to eat or drink, and addressing the situation appropriately.
Special Dietary Needs
Older people have different dietary needs than younger adults, especially if they have certain medical conditions. MedlinePlus notes that while some seniors do not need as many daily calories as they once did, the calories they do consume should contain the nutrients they need to keep them as healthy as possible. Healthy nutritional options nursing homes should provide include balanced portions of:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Dairy or dairy alternatives with calcium and Vitamin D
- Lean protein
- Healthy fats
Ensuring that residents regularly eat balanced meals and snacks can prevent sudden weight loss and other medical conditions that can have a serious impact on their health.
Trouble Keeping Up with Food Intake
For different reasons, seniors and the elderly in nursing homes may struggle to maintain a healthy number of daily calories. Major life changes, health conditions, and medications can all affect appetite, and difficulty eating may present an additional challenge. Whether or not they can feed themselves, nursing homes should not allow residents to go without proper nutrition.
Failure to Ensure the Consumption of Nutrition by Residents Constitutes Abuse
If your loved one resides in a nursing home, you and your family chose their facility because you trusted that they would provide the high level of care and attention that your loved one needs and deserves. Families often struggle to pinpoint instances of neglect and abuse because they regularly happen behind closed doors or they may not seem obvious right away.
Signs of Abuse
When nursing home staff does not ensure that residents eat properly, families and friends may first notice their loved one suffering from sudden weight loss. Other signs of malnutrition include fatigue, hair loss, and trouble sleeping. Some residents may struggle to eat because they experience trauma as a result of nursing home abuse. These concerns may present in many ways, including:
- Rocking back and forth
- Withdrawn disposition
- Agitation or violent tendencies
- Unkempt looked
- Unexplained bruises or wounds
What You Can Do
If you see something, say something. Even if you did not personally witness abuse or neglect, nursing home staff, particularly administration, should know about your concerns so that they can look into the situation. Your concerns should take precedence, and if you feel that the staff ignores them or fails to communicate with you, you can also submit a complaint to the agency that regulates nursing homes in your state. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, nursing homes are subject to investigations and audits.
How an Attorney Can Help You
Attempting to address concerns about the well-being of your loved one in a nursing home only to find that it does not accomplish a resolution may make you feel discouraged and alone, but you do not have to handle the situation on your own.
Whether you suspect that your loved one has suffered nursing home abuse or can confirm the staff’s failure to provide proper care, a lawyer can help you prove liability and pursue accountability in court. Our attorneys can gather the appropriate evidence to build your case and help you seek justice and compensation for the mistreatment of your loved one.
If your loved one suffered sudden weight loss or another medical condition due to malnutrition in a nursing home, Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can help. Call us today at (800) 842-6336 to talk to our legal team about your free case evaluation.