Malnutrition, or lack of proper nutrition, can be a serious, life-threatening medical problem for older adults.
Malnutrition means more than not having enough to eat. It means not getting enough vitamins and minerals into your body, which is very important for nursing home residents. Malnutrition can lead to a variety of serious health problems, including:
- Confusion and memory loss
- Weakness, resulting in immobility, falls, & bedsores
- Inability to fight off sickness
- Inability to recover from an existing illness
- Loss of muscle mass
- Problems with organ function
- Poor teeth or poor oral hygiene
- Depression or dementia
- Difficulty swallowing
- Slow eating pace resulting in food getting cold or in the staff removing the tray before the resident has finished eating
- Stroke, resulting in paralysis
Symptoms of Malnutrition
Potential signs and symptoms of malnutrition are:
- Pale skin
- Dull eyes
- Swollen lips
- Swollen gums
- Swollen and/or dry tongue
- Poor skin turgor (when you pinch the skin, it stays indented and doesn't go back to normal quickly)
- Swelling in lower legs
- Weight loss
- Muscle wasting
Negligence Related to Malnutrition and Dehydration
Two out of five nursing home residents suffer from malnutrition, and it can occur for a variety of reasons. Dehydration can occur for a variety of reasons as well, including diarrhea and the effects of medication. Unfortunately, malnutrition and dehydration can also occur due to a nursing home's negligence in a variety of situations, including:
- Not having enough staff, which results in the staff's inability to properly feed residents
- Not paying enough attention to residents who need assistance with eating
- Not educating the staff properly on nutrition and feeding methods
- Not providing proper supervision over staff members who help feed residents
- Relying on liquid supplements instead of making sure each resident eats enough food, calories, and nutrients
If you notice that your loved one has signs of malnutrition or dehydration, or if you think that they are not getting enough food or fluids at the nursing home, take action right away. Notify the nursing staff and physician, and ask the doctor to set up a meal plan to begin to repair the damage. If you believe the nursing home is responsible for your loved one's malnutrition, contact authorities to report the nursing home for abuse.
Legal Consultation of Malnutrition Claims
Many residents suffer from malnutrition. The sad truth is that it often can be prevented with proper care – the care that your loved one deserves in the first place. When you contact the Pennsylvania law firm of Edgar Snyder & Associates to find out if you have a nursing home abuse case, we go to work for you.
First, we offer a free legal consultation to find out if you do have a case. Then, if you do and you choose our law firm, we will evaluate the records to look for evidence that the resident received proper nutrition. We investigate whether the nursing home performed a nutrition assessment when your loved one became a resident. Did the nursing home ever re-evaluate your loved one or alter his or her food intake based on weight? Did the nursing home try to improve your loved one's condition after he or she showed signs of malnutrition?
We will judge whether the staff's concerns regarding signs and symptoms of malnutrition are clearly documented, and whether the nursing home communicated with the physician about your loved one's nutrition plan. We will also look for documentation that the resident's nutritional status was being monitored by checking for:
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Laboratory values – a simple blood test can be done to check the resident's nutritional status. If some levels are below normal range, such as the protein or albumin level, it may be an indication of malnutrition.
In some cases, it may not be possible to provide adequate nutrition because the resident may be very sick. If your loved one refuses to eat or is unable to eat due to a serious medical condition, talk with the physician and determine what alternatives are appropriate, such as supplements or tube feedings.