Malnutrition occurs when the body does not have the proper levels of nutrients from a diet. For elderly adults, malnutrition can happen easily and have devastating medical consequences. According to Advances in Nutrition, elderly adults are at an increased risk of developing nutritional deficiencies, partly from impairments that may come naturally with age. For example, an elderly adult may suffer from poor oral health and dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.
Another issue that can arise for an elderly person is the side effects of their medication. Some medications can cause an upset stomach or a sensitivity to certain foods. Depression can also lead to a lack of appetite.
According to Medline Plus, certain medical conditions, such as malabsorption syndrome, can also lead to malnutrition. Additionally, suffering from a severe or terminal illness, such as cancer, can also contribute to a problem with nutrition.
Sometimes, what causes malnutrition for elderly adults is neglect or abuse. Each of these circumstances underscores the importance of nutrition for elderly adults.
The Effects of Malnutrition
According to Mayo Clinic, some of the issues caused by malnutrition include:
- A decrease in bone mass
- A compromised immune system
- A risk for falling
While malnutrition can happen to anyone, malnutrition’s effects pose even more severe consequences for elderly adults. They may need assistance to monitor and adjust their diet as they get older.
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Legal Responsibilities of Nursing Homes
Some families make the decision to place their loved ones in nursing homes to assist them with everyday needs and activities. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, nursing homes not only have a responsibility to provide a nutritional diet to all residents but also to tailor meals for patients that struggle with nutritional health as a result of another medical condition.
All nursing homes should keep updated individual patient files that include information on dietary needs and risks. They must accommodate their residents with alternative meal plans and assistance with eating. For example, a patient with dysphagia may need their meals cut into very small pieces in order to swallow.
When determining what caused malnutrition in a patient, the level of care comes into question. If a nursing home suffers from understaffing, caretakers may hurry through their tasks with each patient, dismissing important details in their medical profiles.
Untrained caregivers may not be aware of the signs of malnutrition and the need for intervention in a resident’s dietary plan. Neither of these instances excuses the caregivers or the nursing homes for a case of preventable malnutrition, though.
Filing a Claim Against a Nursing Home
Nursing home residents have the right to a standard of care within the nursing home, and that standard applies to their dietary needs, as well. Malnutrition does not occur overnight, either. A caregiver would have to neglect a resident over a period of time before they become malnourished. If a patient had no medical complications that could lead to malnutrition, it could be a sign that nursing home abuse or neglect is occurring.
If a resident is malnourished, they will require medical attention and intervention immediately. Elderly residents and their family members also have a right to take legal action in the case of abuse or neglect. They can begin by reporting their observations to the nursing home administration as well as the police.
They can also proceed to make a claim with the nursing home’s insurance company for any losses and injuries that directly result due to malnutrition. In some cases, a family may have to file a personal injury lawsuit against the nursing home to seek fair compensation. Residents and their families have a right to legal representation when filing either.
Seek Legal Assistance for Your Malnutrition Case
Nutrition represents the most basic human need. In the worst of cases, nursing home abuse or neglect is what causes malnutrition for an elderly resident. No elderly resident of a nursing home should have to suffer from the consequences of a caregiver’s negligence.
If your loved one suffered medical injuries and complications due to malnutrition that you believe stemmed from nursing home negligence, you might qualify to file a claim or lawsuit.
Call Ben Crump Law, PLLC for help with your malnutrition case. We can offer you a free, no-obligation consultation to help you determine your legal rights and options.
A statute of limitations may apply if you decide to file a lawsuit, so reach out to us at (800) 959-1444 as soon as possible.