Not assisting with food portioning is considered nursing home neglect. Depending on your state, feeding assistance might be a legal requirement of nursing homes, according to a list of state regulations compiled by the University of Minnesota.
However, many nursing homes operate while severely understaffed, meaning that staff members often have more tasks and residents to care for than they should. This can lead to staff members neglecting the needs of some residents, including at mealtime.
Putting Residents in Danger
Some nursing home residents need assistance with eating because of limited mobility, a cognitive disorder, or difficulty swallowing. According to the Mayo Clinic, dysphagia—or trouble swallowing—is a common condition in seniors. When a resident with any of these difficulties is neglected and staff does not assist them with food portioning, it can result in malnutrition, choking, and pneumonia.
While choking is a more imminent danger to nursing home residents, malnutrition can lead to many complications, including rapid weight loss, diminished bone density, and, in extreme cases, organ failure and death. According to a study published in the Permanente Journal, 16% of adults over the age of 65 living in community settings like nursing homes are malnourished.
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Why Residents Are Not Assisted at Mealtime
Nursing homes are severely understaffed—and when staff members have to take on many tasks, they will naturally neglect others. Some states have minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes, but many nursing home advocacy experts say these ratios are still too low, according to a 2016 study about nursing home understaffing that appeared in Health Services Insights (HSI).
If a staff member sees another task as more pressing, they might neglect to portion out residents’ meals, or sit with residents in need and help them eat all their food during their meals.
When Neglect Leads to Abuse
According to the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative, at least 10% of older adults suffer from elder abuse each year.
Sometimes, in severely understaffed nursing homes, stress levels are so high that staff members turn to abusing residents in order to control them. They might withhold food to keep residents subdued or to punish them for their behavior. When staff members knowingly withhold food from residents, this is a form of nursing home neglect.
When to Take Legal Action
If you suspect your loved one is facing neglect in their nursing home because staff members are not assisting them with food portioning, monitor your loved one’s meals as much as you can. You can present your observations as evidence to the nursing home management.
Sometimes, the nursing home’s management will resolve the problem by hiring more staff members or firing the ones who are neglecting their duties. However, if your loved one’s condition persists and they are suffering from the effects of malnutrition, or if they suffered injuries from choking, it might be time to seek legal help.
First, get your loved one to a safer residence. Next, consider hiring a nursing home abuse lawyer to investigate the nursing home and help you build a case for compensation. Other residents might also benefit from you alerting Adult Protective Services in your area.
A lawyer can help you negotiate with the nursing home’s legal team or insurance company to hold them accountable or, if needed, take your case to trial to seek a judgment in your favor. You might be entitled to compensation for any losses related to the neglect, including:
- Medical bills
- Nursing home relocation costs
- Interim care costs
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Funeral and burial expenses (if your loved one died as a result of neglect)
Your Loved One Deserves Justice
It is considered nursing home neglect to not assist residents with food portioning. If your loved one suffered from either neglect or abuse at the hands of the nursing home you trusted to care for them, they deserve justice—and Ben Crump Law, PLLC might be able to help you get it.
Contact a member of our team for a free, no-obligation consultation today at (800) 959-1444. We work on contingency, which means there are no upfront or out-of-pocket costs. In other words, there is no risk in calling us for help.