How a Nursing Home Can Prevent Malnutrition
Malnutrition in nursing home residents is more prevalent than we would like to believe. It is also a form of abuse. This is problematic, as malnutrition leads to several other health problems, decreased quality of life, and increased mortality and morbidity rates. In most instances, malnutrition is avoidable if nursing home doctors and nurses provide proper levels of care and treatment.
Basic Preventative Measures
There are several steps a nursing home can take to prevent malnutrition in their residents:
- Monitor weight: Weight is a great indicator of whether a resident is suffering from malnutrition. Any weight loss, especially significant weight loss, requires constant monitoring to determine its cause and quick action to improve the situation.
- Monitor calorie intake: The nursing home should have a care plan in place that specifies how much and which type of food a resident should intake each day. The nursing staff should serve the resident the right amount of calories, and it should also observe the resident during meal times to ensure the resident ingests those calories.
- Monitor fluid intake: Hydration plays a major role in malnutrition and many other health problems. The staff should monitor fluid intake along with food intake to make sure a resident is receiving a balanced diet.
- Offer feeding assistance: Patients who cannot feed themselves for any reason should receive one-on-one assistance during meal times. This helps to ensure each patient take in the calories and nutrients he or she requires to stay healthy.
Make the dining experience enjoyable: Whenever possible, residents should enjoy meal times in a social setting. Wheelchair-bound residents should have the ability to sit in dining chairs so they can sit closer to the table. Residents should also be free from negativity and any undue pressure, as fear, concern and even depression can result.
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Additional Steps for High-Risk Patients
Some patients are at higher risk for malnutrition than others. This includes patients with physical and cognitive impairments and those who take medications such as diuretics.
At-risk patients should receive special assistance and monitoring to help prevent malnutrition. That assistance can include consultations and ongoing treatment from registered dieticians, who can provide nutritional assessments and even help create a daily meal plan. Additionally, the attending physician of any at-risk patient can order laboratory testing to monitor specific concerns and adjust dietary treatment as necessary.
Preventing Malnutrition Requires Enough Staff
To meet the preventative measures laid out above, nursing homes must ensure they have enough staff on hand. Unfortunately, many nursing home administrators choose to maintain low staff levels to increase profits. They make this choice at the residents’ expense, as not having enough staff on hand means the nursing home cannot address the dietary and other daily needs of each resident.
The quantity of staff is not enough in and of itself. Quality also matters, as staff members who have the requisite training and empathy can often make a world of different in a resident’s overall health and well-being.
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