Families of elderly loved ones often find that as their loved ones age, they struggle to maintain their appetites. Seniors have many reasons for losing their taste for food, including trouble making their own meals, long-term immobility, and not having a stable routine. However, some medical conditions and prescription drugs cause food aversions, and those affected must avoid certain foods for health and safety reasons. Nursing home staff have an obligation to abide by these dietary restrictions to ensure the well-being of residents.
Medical Conditions That Cause Food Aversions or Do Not Allow Certain Foods
Health issues play a major role in eating concerns among the elderly, and caretakers must exercise caution and patience when caring for patients with conditions that limit their dietary options. Failure to monitor patients whose medical conditions make them averse to some types of foods constitutes abuse as it can lead to dangerous medical concerns.
Health Issues Can Cause Loss of Appetite
Nursing homes must not only provide regular, nutritious meals and snacks to their patients, but they must also ensure their consumption to help patients improve and maintain their health. According to Healthline, a patient will sometimes suffer food aversions or loss of appetite as a result of a medical condition, such as:
- Mental health problems
- Upper respiratory infection
- Chronic disease
If a patient refuses to eat for any reason, nursing home staff must involve qualified medical professionals to properly address the issue.
Some Conditions Prohibit Certain Foods
Certain conditions require patients to avoid specific foods, as their consumption may cause serious and potentially life-threatening complications. When nursing home staff fail to monitor patients who have aversions to certain types of food, medical emergencies may occur. Some food restrictions required by patients with certain conditions include:
- Sugar and carbohydrates for those with diabetes
- Gluten-containing foods for those with celiac disease
- Specific allergens for those with food allergies
Prescription Drugs That Interact with Food
When a doctor prescribes a prescription medication, they often tell the patient about its contraindications, or other substances that the patient cannot use in conjunction with the medication. These typically refer to alcohol, other medications, and food, as each can interact with the medication and cause unintended side effects.
Some Medications Work Best with or Without Food
According to Cleveland Clinic, some drugs work better on an empty stomach, as they allow them to absorb more easily. Other types of medications work safer and more effectively with food because they can irritate the stomach without food present to block some of their uncomfortable side effects. Even if a patient at a nursing home struggles with decreased appetite, staff should encourage them to eat when taking medications that require food.
Certain Foods Affect How Some Medications Work
Some medications can cause other medical problems when mixed with certain types of food. Some blood pressure drugs, for example, can lead to high potassium levels that can trigger cardiac arrest, so patients should avoid consuming excess potassium. Grapefruit consumption can lead to increased drug levels in the blood when taking certain medications for cholesterol. Regularly eating foods high in tyramine, an amino acid, can cause headaches and blood pressure spikes in patients who take certain types of antidepressants. Nursing home staff must remain aware of these restrictions at all times and prevent patients from consuming high levels of contraindicated foods.
Nursing Homes Must Abide by Patient Dietary Restrictions
The University of Minnesota outlines federal regulation 483.35, which describes dietary service provisions as they pertain to nursing homes. According to the law, “nursing homes must provide each resident with a nourishing, palatable, and well-balanced diet that meets dietary requirements and any special dietary needs.” A registered dietitian must oversee the dietary service program to ensure the facility meets the legal guidelines.
When nursing home staff fails to monitor patients with medical conditions that make them averse to certain types of food, patients can suffer serious side effects as a result. If the patient’s aversion to food relates to their inability to properly feed themselves, the facility must ensure assistance with eating and drinking to avoid malnutrition and death. According to the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, failure to provide any basic needs, including assistance eating, constitutes negligence.
An Attorney Can Help You Hold the Nursing Home Accountable
When you decide on a nursing home for your loved one, you expect that they will follow all legal, medical, and ethical regulations regarding their health and safety. Food aversions commonly present among elderly people for many reasons, including medical conditions, prescription drugs, and personal concerns.
Regardless, nursing homes have a duty to provide quality care to each patient that meets their specific needs, including dietary requirements. If your loved one did not receive the appropriate nutrition to accommodate their food aversions, a lawyer can help you seek accountability and compensation. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 842-6336 to talk to our legal team during your free case evaluation.