The Nursing Home Reform Act specifically calls out a nursing home’s responsibility in providing for the proper care of each and every resident. With regard to nutrition, the Act requires that every resident has the ability to maintain “acceptable parameters of nutritional status, such as body weight and protein levels, unless clinical condition demonstrates that this is not possible.” The Act also requires that a nursing home performs assessments on each resident to prevent malnutrition.

Nutritional Assessments in Nursing Homes

The Act sets forth a two-part health assessment, called the Resident Assessment Instrument (RAI), which nursing homes must follow with every patient. The nursing staff must perform the RAI according to a federally mandated schedule, including upon admission of a new resident, at least once yearly after that, and any time a significant health change occurs.

The RAI is actually made up of two separate assessments:

  • The Minimum Data Set (MDS): The MDS measures a variety of potential problems related to oral health and nutrition and hydration levels. It calls direct attention to weight loss and any changes in a resident’s ability to feed him- or herself. If any risk factors or issues arise during the MDS, the nursing staff must then perform the Resident Assessment Protocols. In addition to the RAI schedule, nursing staff must also perform the MDS quarterly.
  • The Resident Assessment Protocols (RAPs): The RAP is a more intensive assessment that can identify specific causes of any nutritional or hydration deficiencies. This assessment looks at a variety of physical, psychological and social issues, including chewing or swallowing issues, the effects of medication, anxiety or depression, and issues with communication.

How Nursing Home Assessments Help Prevent Malnutrition

These assessments offer many opportunities for the nursing staff to avoid malnourishment in its patients:

  • Individualized care plan: These assessments help the nursing home staff to create tailored care plans that meet each resident’s health and wellness needs, and more specifically, nutritional needs. Once this plan is in place, any care provider can review it to see what the patient needs on a daily basis.
  • Pre-set schedule: The Act clearly lays out the health assessment schedule that each nursing home must follow. This pre-set schedule helps a nursing home properly staff to ensure every resident receives each assessment. It also makes assessment scheduling and accountability easier to track.
  • Quick response: By following the pre-set assessment schedule, no patient should go without the care he or she needs. Additionally, the results of these assessments can help nursing home staff act quickly to help avert malnutrition or avoid it altogether.

Failure to Perform These Assessments Is Not Acceptable

Nursing home administrators and staff must dedicate themselves to following the Act’s mandates and taking proper care of their patients. Failure to do so can result in malnutrition, dehydration, illness and even death. If you believe your loved one’s nursing home is not following the law or is failing to meet your loved one’s nutritional needs, reach out to us.

Learn More About Nutritional Assessments in a Free Consultation

To learn more about the federally mandated health assessments and what they mean for your loved one, contact The Rooth Law Firm online for a free consultation. We have more than 30 years of experience advocating for the rights of nursing home patients and their families.

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