The causes of malnutrition are a lack of quantity and quality of food available, as well as medical conditions interfering with eating and drinking. While malnutrition can occur due to physical or mental problems, it can also be the result of neglect in the nursing home.
Malnutrition typically occurs when the body does not receive adequate nourishment and nutrients. If your loved one in the nursing home has rapidly or unexpectedly lost weight, you might be wondering whether your loved one is suffering from neglect.
Unfortunately, malnutrition in nursing homes is relatively common, with around 20% of nursing home residents showing symptoms of malnutrition, according to a study in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. A higher risk of mortality is one of the major consequences of malnutrition in nursing homes.
Physical Problems Causing Malnourishment
As we age, we may suffer from medical conditions that can make it difficult to chew, swallow, or digest adequate amounts of food. Some medical conditions and medicines can also interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Examples of physical problems and medical conditions that may interfere with an elderly person’s ability to get adequate nutrition can include:
Dysphagia is a difficulty with swallowing that can affect the elderly in particular. Sometimes, swallowing can be painful or even impossible for those suffering from dysphagia.
If a nursing home resident has dental pain or missing teeth, they may not be able to eat as much as they should and lack adequate nutrition as a result. Ill-fitting dentures can also cause malnourishment.
Loss of Smell and Taste
The senses of smell and taste can weaken as we get older. This can reduce a person’s appetite, which can lead to malnourishment.
Chronic diseases, infections, and certain medications can reduce appetite and lead to malnutrition.
Persons with dementia may suffer from malnutrition and dehydration due to simply forgetting to eat. Dementia can also cause swallowing problems in some cases.
There can also be many other reasons for malnutrition in the elderly, for example, depression and social isolation.
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The Effects of Malnutrition
According to the Mayo Clinic, malnutrition can cause a number of detrimental health effects in the elderly, including:
- Weakened immune system
- Frequent infections
- Muscle weakness and increased frailty
- Slower wound healing
- Aggravating existing health conditions
Malnutrition is serious and can cause rapid deterioration of a senior’s health. If you notice that your loved one has recently lost a lot of weight and there is no explanation for the rapid weight loss, contact a doctor as soon as possible. You may also wish to consult with a nursing home abuse lawyer as your relative may be suffering from nursing home abuse and neglect.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Malnutrition in nursing home residents is not always due to medical conditions or lack of appetite. Sometimes, rapid weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration can be a sign of nursing home abuse. Some of the ways in which nursing home staff may be responsible for malnutrition in residents:
- Neglecting to assist the senior with eating and drinking
- Not monitoring food and drink intake
- Medical neglect
- Social or emotional neglect
The nursing home is required, by law, to provide an environment free from abuse and neglect. If you think a nursing home is responsible for your loved one’s malnutrition, you could hold them to account and receive compensation.
How a Nursing Home Can Be Negligent
A nursing home may be negligent due to understaffing. There may not be enough employees at the facility to assist residents with their daily needs and ensure that residents eat and drink enough. A nursing home could also be responsible if the food offered to residents is below par in either quantity or quality, or both.
If a nursing home does not ensure that staff are adequately trained and qualified, they may not notice the signs of malnutrition or fail to monitor residents’ food and liquid intake.
All of this is unacceptable as it puts seniors at risk for mental and physical decline.
Malnutrition is serious and can quickly lead to death. If you suspect your loved one’s malnutrition is due to staff neglect at the nursing home, you should act immediately to make sure your loved one is safe. You could also hire a nursing home abuse lawyer to find out about any legal option you might have.
We Can Help
If the causes of malnourishment of your loved one are due to nursing home abuse or neglect, you should contact us. Holding a nursing home to account can be challenging and complicated. However, we can be by your side to help you and your loved one through an upsetting time. We do not shy away from tough cases and can fight for your rights and compensation.
Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC today for a free and no-obligation review of your case with a member of our team at (800) 959-1444.