Malnutrition Deficiencies in Nursing Homes

Malnutrition is a common form of nursing home negligence and abuse, and it can lead to more serious health problems, such as confusion, muscle weakness, accidental falls, infections, digestive disorders, and the breakdown of skin, which can leave the elderly person more susceptible to bedsores.  The term “malnutrition” is often used as a blanket term for whenever there is a deficiency in a person’s diet, and usually refers to a lack of calories consumed by a person.  However, there are distinct types of malnutrition, such as vitamin, mineral, and protein deficiencies.  These deficiencies are commonly seen in nursing home residents.

Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

The most common vitamin and mineral deficiencies exhibited by nursing home residents include Vitamins B6, B12, C, D, and E, thiamine (vitamin B1), zinc, magnesium, and folate (vitamin B9). Vitamin B6 is important for producing chemicals in the brain, and without it, health problems can arise that affect the nervous system, mucous membranes, and circulatory system. Vitamin B12 deficiencies have been linked to depression, gastrointestinal problems, anemia, and urinary tract infections. Vitamin C and zinc promote healthy immune system functionality. Vitamin D is needed to help the body utilize calcium, and when there is a vitamin D deficiency, there is a higher likelihood of osteoporosis, broken bones, and muscle weakness. Vitamin E and magnesium deficiencies can lead to neuromuscular problems, and a thiamine deficiency can affect the digestive, circulatory, muscular, and neurological systems of the body. Folate is important for producing and breaking down proteins in the body.

These deficiencies can all be overcome by a nutrient-rich diet. Some specific examples of good nutrient sources are citrus for Vitamin C, green leafy vegetables for folate, while nuts, seeds and vegetable oil provide Vitamin E to one’s diet. Zinc is found in beef, shellfish, peanuts, and legumes.  Magnesium can be ingested by eating dark chocolates, black beans or spinach. Fish and milk provide large quantities of Vitamin B12 and D.

Protein Deficiency

Protein is vital to healthy muscles and a strong immune system. When there is a deficiency of protein, elderly people exhibit problems with wound healing, joint pain, fatigue, dental problems, and low energy. Protein is easy to get from consumed meat, however, older people can have difficulty chewing meat, or dislike the texture associated with meat, and therefore may not eat it when it is served. In place of meat, a nursing home staff can provide other sources of protein to residents. Consumption of eggs, meat alternatives, beans, and dairy foods, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt can all improve protein intake. Soymilk makes for a good source of protein, too. Elderly men need approximately 60 grams of protein a day, while older women may only need approximately 45 grams.

If you believe that someone you love is being subjected to nursing home abuse or neglect, or is suffering from malnourishment, please contact The Rooth Law Firm at (847) 869-9100.