The symptoms of malnourishment include weight loss, sunken eyes, pale skin, and hair loss. Surprisingly, malnourishment is a growing problem in nursing homes as seniors either do not get enough food to eat or the food they receive is not rich in nutrients, leading to serious health problems if left untreated.
Malnourishment is a condition that develops when someone does not get enough of the nutrients that they need to stay healthy. This condition can happen for various reasons, and a change in diet could quickly correct it. However, malnutrition has become a more significant issue in nursing homes as seniors begin to experience problems with accessing nutrition. The Permanente Journal found that 16 percent of nursing home residents consumed fewer than 1,000 calories per day, putting them at higher risk of malnutrition.
Symptoms of Malnourishment
You can watch for the symptoms of malnourishment when you visit your loved one at the nursing home. These symptoms include:
- Weight loss: The most common symptom of malnourishment is weight loss. It might be difficult to spot at first, but it will become more noticeable over time.
- Weakness: As malnourishment continues, your loved one will begin to feel weaker. This symptom will become more evident as your loved one has difficulty moving around the facility or experience a loss of interest in activities.
- Higher rate of illnesses: The immune system will significantly weaken as your loved one becomes more malnourished, leading to more illnesses and staying sick for longer periods.
- Lower body temperature: Severe malnutrition can cause the body temperature to drop because your loved one has not consumed enough calories (thermal units). Your loved one will also feel cold more often.
There are other symptoms of malnourishment not covered on this list. If your loved one begins to show signs of malnourishment or other illnesses, it is important to intervene as soon as possible. If you can have the nursing home change your loved one’s diet, you can usually reverse the effects of malnutrition. If they show no improvement, there might be an underlying illness that caused their condition. The sooner you can intercede, the better the outcome for your loved one might be.
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Causes of Malnourishment
Among the causes of malnourishment, the most common is a problem with your loved one’s diet. Most senior nursing home residents do not control what they eat daily. While the nursing home might offer options, the menu may not suit their nutritional needs. The facility also might not provide enough food to keep seniors healthy.
It is also possible that malnutrition naturally develops as seniors become sick or acquire specific medical conditions. Even if they eat enough, they might not process and absorb enough nutritional content to stay healthy. This problem is not uncommon for seniors, especially those living in nursing homes—the Permanente Journal report showed that up to 60 percent of seniors living in nursing homes suffer from malnutrition. A doctor’s assessment should determine if an illness is the underlying cause of your loved one’s malnourishment.
According to the Mayo Clinic, malnutrition can have several short-term impacts on senior citizens, including:
- Weakened immune system
- Poor healing of wounds
- Muscle weakness
- A decrease in bone density
Without the right nutrients available, specific bodily functions will either slow down or stop, leading to serious health problems such as broken bones from falls or an increased risk of infection and illness and general tiredness and fatigue that impacts seniors’ quality of life.
Malnourishment can have long-term impacts as well. If the condition goes untreated for an extended period, the adverse health effects can become life-threatening. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) describes how organs such as the kidneys can begin to shut down, and bodily functions can stop, with the damage to the body becoming permanent.
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Steps to Take
If you think your loved one shows symptoms of malnourishment, it is essential to act as soon as possible. Investigate what your loved one needs to make sure that they receive the food to keep them healthy. Involve the nursing home staff so they can investigate and see if your loved one has an underlying condition that has caused their malnourishment.
If you believe that neglect by nursing home staff has caused your loved one’s malnutrition, you might be able to take legal action against the facility. You can contact local law enforcement or the state health authority to report the neglect. You can also discuss your situation with a nursing home abuse lawyer to explore your legal options.
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Recovering from malnourishment can be an expensive process, requiring medical intervention and perhaps moving your loved one to a different nursing home. You do not have to bear those expenses alone. You can hold the nursing home responsible by filing a lawsuit to recover compensation. Call the team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC, today at 800-959-1444 to review your case for free.