Your elderly loved one in a nursing home may have malnutrition due to nursing home abuse if they have physical symptoms unexplainable by any medical condition. These symptoms include the following: weight loss, fragile bones, fatigue, dizziness, swollen or bleeding gums, weakness, mental decline or memory loss unrelated to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, decreased organ functions, bloated abdomen, tooth decay, dry skin, or general confusion.
Legal Nutritional Requirements in Nursing Homes
The nutritional guidelines established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires that diets provided for nursing home residents meet certain nutritional requirements, promote quality of life, prevent malnutrition and disease, and prevent weight loss or gain.
Both federal and state laws require that nursing home menus receive approval and that every resident receives their recommended daily allowances according to their specific and unique health conditions. While substitutions are allowable, and the nursing home may allow accommodations for food preferences, each resident must receive three full meals per day and a snack at bedtime.
Elder Malnutrition in Nursing Homes
Nutrition is a basic human need for everyone. Every person has nutritional needs, and the elderly have additional needs for proper nutrition to ensure their strength and health. In fact, many families seek out a nursing home specifically to ensure that their elderly loved one receives the proper care and nutrition that they require.
While some residents simply refuse to eat food that’s provided to them, nursing home staff have a responsibility to ensure that their residents receive and eat nutritious food despite any type of reluctance or refusal to eat. Balanced diets and proper caloric intake are important in order to prevent malnutrition. The elderly are often afflicted with low energy, anemia, and low blood pressure, and without proper nutrition, these conditions can become worse. Unfortunately, many nursing home residents are malnourished due to improper nutrition. If an elderly person suffers malnutrition in a nursing home, it is a form of neglect.
Signs of Malnutrition
Your loved one may exhibit certain signs and symptoms of malnutrition that are due to nursing home abuse in the form of malnutrition. Some of the signs and symptoms of malnutrition may include sunken eyes, low blood pressure, constipation, decreased urination, dry skin, decrease in elasticity of the skin, thirst, dry mouth, inability to sweat or produce tears, rapid breathing or rapid heart rate, irritability, and dizziness.
These are very vague symptoms and could simply be a sign of aging, or a symptom of a different or developing medical condition. However, it is important that you always watch your loved one for any new symptoms, signs, or conditions. Remaining vigilant to the possibility that your loved one could suffer from malnourishment due to nursing home abuse should be a consideration if these signs appear unexpectedly.
Consequence of Malnutrition
The consequences of malnutrition in nursing homes are serious and potentially deadly. Malnutrition causes functional decline and a decreased quality of life. Unfortunately, the most severe consequence of malnutrition in the elderly is death. If you notice that your loved one is suffering from any signs or symptoms of malnutrition, speak with the nursing home staff immediately.
You and your loved one have the right to voice your concerns regarding the lack of nutrition provided at the nursing home. You also have the right to file an official complaint with the nursing home without any fear of retaliation or punishment toward your elderly loved one. It is important to note that the nursing home has a legal duty to address your concerns promptly. If your concerns remain unaddressed by the nursing home, immediately report any unresolved complaints regarding the nutritional needs of your elderly loved one to the State Survey and Certification Agency for a full investigation.
What to Do if Your Loved One Suffered Injuries or Death Due to Malnutrition
If you, the nursing home staff, or the doctors do not spot the signs and symptoms of malnutrition quickly enough, it can lead to injuries or even death. Often, it is only when medical complications begin to occur, or that the health of a loved one begins to rapidly deteriorate that family members begin to suspect malnutrition. The nursing home may immediately deny any wrongdoing or responsibility, obscure important facts, and attempt to remove themselves and their company from any kind of legal liability. Additionally, your elderly loved one may suffer from memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease, making it difficult for them to explain, understand, or remember the abuse.
If your loved one passed away due to malnutrition, it is important to request, or pay for, an autopsy report that will confirm your suspicions. Taking legal action against a nursing home not only helps your loved one obtain their legal rights, but it can also raise awareness, improve the nutrition and care of others in the nursing home, and improve the quality of life for the other residents.
Contact a Nursing Home Lawyer
If you believe the nursing home is not meeting your loved one’s nutritional needs, visit with one of our nursing home lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm. Please call us at (800) 842-6336 and let us help you determine your legal rights. We do not avoid difficult cases, and we work on a contingency-fee-basis, so you do not pay unless we win.