Why Malnourishment Occurs in Nursing Home Residents

According to a 2010 report from the Commonwealth Fund, anywhere between 35 and 85 percent of nursing home residents experience malnutrition each year. This number is too high, especially considering national and state laws that require nursing homes to meet each resident’s nutritional needs. Unfortunately, nursing homes continue to miss the mark in properly hydrating and feeding their patients. While this is sometimes unavoidable due to a resident’s health, it is often due to poor care, insufficient staffing and other types of nursing home neglect and abuse.

Why Do Nursing Home Residents Become Malnourished?

Many elderly individuals are at risk for malnutrition due to physical and psychological impairments, including:

  • Physical impairments, such as swallowing disorders or taste or smell changes
  • Functional impairments, such as immobility or the inability to feed oneself
  • Cognitive impairments, such as dementia or confusion
  • Psycho-social impairments, such as depression
  • Medication effects, such as those that cause nausea or a nutrient imbalance

For individuals with one or more of these conditions, the nursing home staff has to recognize the risk factors and then take appropriate steps to prevent malnutrition. The failure to take steps such as providing the appropriate type or amount of foods or to assist with feedings can cause a quick deterioration in health and increase mortality and morbidity.

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Warning Signs of Malnutrition

Whether your loved one is predisposed or not, keep a watchful eye out for any of the following malnutrition warning signs:

  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Easy bruising
  • Poor dental health

The best way for you to watch for these signs is to visit your loved one often, especially during meal times. Look at the type, amount and quality of food he or she receives at meal times. Watch how she or he eats, as well as how much.

Having Enough Food Is Not Good Enough

Nursing home residents may experience diminished appetites throughout their stay in the home. It is up to the nursing home staff to ensure that each resident takes in enough food each day to avoid malnutrition. The right amount of food is not enough, however. The staff must also work with each patient to build a daily diet that provides him or her with quality food that offers the right balance of nutrients.

When you leave your mother, father, brother, sister or other loved one in a nursing home, speak to the nursing home staff about how it plans to meet his or her dietary needs. Discuss how your loved one’s medication and overall health affects his or her diet, and what steps the nursing home will take to avoid malnutrition. Then make sure to hold the staff accountable for those steps.

Contact us at (847) 869-9100 to make arrangements to discuss your case with our attorney today.