Malnutrition from Unappetizing Meals

The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 is a federal law that requires nursing home facilities to assess a new resident’s nutritional state regularly. In light of a resident’s assessments, well-balanced and palatable meals must be prepared for each resident. These meals need to further take into consideration special dietary restrictions, such as no- or low-salt diets or low-cholesterol diets, and supplemental nutritional requirements, such as high-protein or high-calorie diet requirements for those residents overcoming malnutrition concerns.

Appetizing Foods in an Appealing Environment

Presentation is important to the enjoyment of food. Residents’ meals should be prepared properly, appear appetizing, and be warmed to an appropriate temperature. Residents do not have to eat cold, bland, overcooked, burnt, or ruined food provided by the nursing home. Appetizing food encourages enjoyment, which reduces the chances of a resident becoming malnourished. Nursing homes that do not serve appetizing or cold foods that should be warmed, such as oatmeal, soups, and stews, could be liable for abuse or neglect.

Residents should also be provided with dining utensils that are clean, sanitary, and in working condition. The dining area should also be a clean, orderly, and cheery environment. If a resident is unable to dine in a dining area, and he or she must be served in his or her room, the resident should receive a clean tray with food that is the appropriate temperature. There should not be a significant delay between when the food is prepared and when it is served to the confined resident.

Service Should be Reasonable

Residents are entitled to eat how they want, and if they require special tools to facilitate eating, those tools should be provided to them. Furthermore, residents should be served meals in a timely manner. If a resident would like to be fed at the same time as his or her roommate, that wish should be honored. If a group of residents sits down together at the dining hall, the group of residents should be served together. One individual’s meal should not be delayed considerably compared to the others. Residents should be supervised during meals, and any assistance with eating should be promptly provided if it is necessary or required.

If Possible, Provide Ethnic Food Options

Some residents have a preference for ethnic foods, and when possible, nursing homes should attempt to provide ethnic options for residents. If it is impossible to provide ethnic options, due perhaps to dietary restrictions or health concerns, an equally nutritional substitute should be provided to residents. The same goes for when residents do not like the foods provided for the meal. Residents should be presented with a variety of dining options of equal nutritional value.

The Rooth Law Firm has over 28 years of experience advocating for the rights of nursing home residents who have been victims of nursing home negligence and abuse cases.  Please contact our Illinois personal injury firm online or call us at (847) 869-9100.

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Illinois Citizens for Better Care, Nutrition and Hydration Consumer Fact Sheet, 2009