Nutrition plays a significant role in our lives and can affect our ability to fight off disease, our mental and emotional health, and our overall well-being. As people age, their body systems become less resilient. Cells throughout the body become larger and do not multiply as rapidly, making their replacement with new, healthy cells less frequent. As these cells age, they often lose their efficiency or cease to function at all.
When families choose nursing homes for their aging loved ones, they trust that the staff will provide proper nutrition and quality care. If you noticed that your spouse, parent, or other loved one experienced sudden weight loss, they might have suffered from neglect or nursing home abuse.
The Elderly Have Special Nutrition Requirements
In order to meet their health needs, treat or prevent medical conditions, and encourage body function, seniors often require more than just a balanced diet. Maintaining nutrition can help combat certain conditions that occur commonly among older people, such as hypertension and diabetes, and some medications have specific instructions regarding food.
Many prescription drugs require food intake to properly absorb and prevent discomfort, and some have contraindicated foods that can affect the safety or efficacy of the drug. Nursing home staff must pay close attention to how a resident’s medication affects their nutritional needs.
The Nursing Home Reform Act protects the rights of seniors in nursing homes and says that nursing home staff must make sure that meals are nutritional and meet the needs of residents. Failing to do so could be a form of negligence or abuse.
Sudden Weight Loss Due to Inadequate Nutrition
Family members often suspect failure of nursing home staff to provide proper nutrition to residents when their loved one quickly loses a noticeable amount of weight. Many factors can contribute to sudden weight loss in the elderly, including depression, anxiety, and other medical conditions.
When residents experience trauma and mental health concerns, they may withdraw and refuse to eat. Nursing home staff must ensure that they continue to eat and get family members and medical professionals involved when necessary.
Providing Regular Meals and Snacks
In some cases, weight loss in nursing home residents occurs because staff members do not provide them with enough food to maintain their nutritional requirements. While this sometimes occurs as a result of intentional neglect, it may also happen when the facility does not hire enough employees to provide an appropriate level of care to all residents.
Regardless, if a staff member’s failure to provide proper nutrition to residents caused your loved one’s injury, they should be held accountable.
Monitoring Food Intake
In addition to providing nutritious food that meets residents’ needs, nursing homes must also monitor their eating habits to make sure they take in enough food to sustain their health.
Nursing homes can hire staff members solely to feed residents. The ability to hire personnel to assist with food intake allows nursing professionals to care for residents’ needs while feeding assistants help with meals, so the understaffing of nurses no longer allows the nutritional needs of residents to fall through the cracks.
How to Take Action for Your Loved One
If your loved one became ill or suffered injuries in a nursing home due to the staff’s failure to provide proper nutrition, you can take steps to hold the facility accountable for their harmful acts.
Address the Issue with Staff
Even if you cannot confirm neglect or abuse, speaking with staff can help you find answers, hold negligent parties responsible, and protect your loved one. Families should never hesitate to contact nursing home administration regarding their concerns, and the administration should take the concern seriously. If the person you speak with refuses to communicate or follow up with you, you may wish to consider contacting a lawyer or taking the next step.
File a Complaint
Each state has an agency that regulates nursing homes, and you can file a complaint with your state’s agency to prompt an investigation. Complaints apply to concerns you have about treatment or care that a resident received. A representative should contact you to follow up on your complaint.
Talk to a Lawyer
According to a 2004 report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), state agencies failed to investigate some of the most serious nursing home complaints within the allotted time frame. Additionally, responses to many complaints did not sufficiently address the complainant’s concerns.
If your loved one suffered in a nursing home because staff failed to provide proper nutrition to residents, a lawyer can help you investigate your claim and seek accountability on your behalf. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 842-6336 to talk to our legal team about your free case evaluation.