According to MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine, one of the first signs of weight loss in a nursing home resident includes the sudden loss of 10 pounds or 5% of the resident’s normal body weight.
Additional symptoms of weight loss that can indicate neglect or health issues per HealthLine are:
- Loss of hair
- Mood changes and irritability
- Trouble regulating body temperature
Sudden weight loss in a nursing home resident can indicate an undiagnosed illness, complications with medication, or the occurrence of nursing home abuse or neglect.
Depending on the reason for the weight loss, the patient can develop medical conditions or add to existing ones due to the change in weight. Caregivers at nursing homes have an obligation to monitor the residents’ weight and adjust their meal plans as needed to maintain an ideal weight.
Although a certain amount of weight loss is a normal part of the aging process, any drastic or consistent reduction can indicate more serious issues.
According to The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging, weight loss in nursing home residents reflects the quality of care they receive from administration and employees. Significant weight loss in a resident can indicate abuse or neglect on the part of the caregiver or the nursing home as a whole.
Unexplained Weight Loss in Elderly Adults
Mayo Clinic explains that weight loss in elderly adults occurs naturally but that an unexplained and sudden loss of weight can signal an underlying medical issue. The issues can range from something as simple as an infection to Parkinson’s disease.
This is why it is important to visit your elderly loved one regularly to observe their physical appearance and emotional demeanor. If they appear withdrawn or thin and these characteristics worsen over time, they may be losing weight. It helps to know what the first signs of weight loss are in a nursing home resident in order to keep your loved one safe.
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The Risk of Malnutrition
While some weight loss may be normal, a drastic and continual decrease can signal the risk of malnutrition. You should consider seeking medical attention for your loved one immediately if this is the case.
According to The Permanente Journal, malnutrition in the elderly can lead to serious physical and cognitive impairments, or even death. Part of what makes this population so vulnerable is the natural processes of aging.
Sometimes, elderly residents develop medical conditions like dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, as they age or as a reaction to other conditions. They may also suffer from conditions that curb their appetite, like depression or side effects from their medication.
Another area of concern is their quality of care. If an elderly resident of a nursing home needs their food cut into small pieces in order to chew properly, a caregiver who is feeding them is obligated to do so. Usually, a patient will have a note in their file signaling any choking risk factors and dietary needs.
In the event that a caregiver neglects to consult the chart and make themselves aware of a patient’s individual nutritional needs, they may put the resident at risk for a variety of issues, including malnutrition. If a resident loses weight as a result of a caregiver failing to assist them with their nutritional needs, this would constitute negligence on the part of the nursing home.
What to Do When You Suspect Nursing Home Neglect
If you have an elderly loved one living in a nursing home and they experienced an unexplained weight loss, you have options to keep them safe. You can report any suspicions of neglect or abuse to the nursing home administration or to your state’s Adult Protective Services.
In addition to removing your loved one from the nursing home, you will want to get them to a doctor who may be able to determine the cause of the weight loss and provide treatment. If it is an underlying medical issue, they may need immediate intervention.
If caregiver neglect led to the weight loss and the weight loss resulted in medical complications and injuries for your loved one, you may qualify to seek compensation. You could make a claim with the nursing home’s insurance company or file a personal injury lawsuit. You also have the right to legal counsel and representation throughout the process.
Let Ben Crump Law, PLLC Handle Your Case
Recovering from sudden, unexpected weight loss can take time, and your loved one will need your support. While you focus on helping them recover, allow a lawyer to handle your case against the nursing home.
Upon the first signs of weight loss in a nursing home resident, do not hesitate to question the change. You only have a limited amount of time to file a personal injury lawsuit, so the sooner you determine negligence occurred on behalf of the nursing home, the sooner you can work to hold them accountable.
Call Ben Crump Law, PLLC at (800) 712-9119 for your free consultation.