Nursing homes exist to give our loved ones the help we can’t provide on our own. We entrust their personal and medical care to a qualified team whose job is to keep them healthy. What happens when that goes wrong? Many elders in nursing homes suffer injustice, injuries, or even premature death because of how they are treated.
Malnutrition and dehydration are serious problems in nursing homes, even though caregivers have long been aware of the issue. If you or a loved one are not receiving the food you need to stay healthy, our experienced team is here to help.
We’ll provide a free consultation for your nursing home abuse case. Contact us online or call (646) 681-7055 to schedule an appointment.
Elder Malnutrition Is Far Too Common
When considering health risks for elderly populations, you may think of potentially deadly dangers like pneumonia or hip fractures. However, malnutrition has numerous ill effects that can snowball into larger health issues. Dangerous at any age, among elders the condition can cause:
- Weight loss or bloated abdomen
- Dry skin
- Confusion or dizziness
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Weakening of bones
- Loss of organ function
- Muscle loss or weakness
- Cognitive impairment and memory loss
Malnutrition also impairs immune function and healing. For a population already prone to illness or infection, not receiving enough nutrients can start a steady decline. With the weakness brought on by the condition, elderly populations may become bedridden and lose the motivation to do simple tasks—including, ironically enough, eating regularly. If you believe a loved one has suffered from malnutrition at the hands of their nursing home, you may be able to pursue damages.
When Nurses Don’t Do Enough
A 2012 study of nursing home residents found that nearly 20% were malnourished—and twice that number were at risk for the condition. In just three years (between 1999 and 2002), dehydration and nutrition caused around 14,000 deaths in nursing homes. Though most homes do their best to uphold the standard of care promised to their patients, malnutrition doesn’t have to be purposeful to be harmful. The fact is, nursing homes or other medical environments often aren’t optimized to meet seniors’ needs. Malnutrition can occur for a number of reasons, such as:
- Limited food choice and/or poor presentation
- Food that does not meet dietary restrictions or cultural expectations
- Lack of time to finish a meal
- Oral health complications (rotted or missing teeth, missing dentures)
- Lack of aid for slow eaters
- Unpleasant eating environment
- Heightened need for nutrients to assist in healing
Due to physical and mental complications, the elderly often need assistance to finish their meals, and most nursing homes do not have enough qualified staff to provide this time-consuming service. As a result, seniors may fall into malnutrition not because they don’t have enough to eat, but because they aren’t able to finish what they are given.
Many of the symptoms of malnutrition mirror the expected effects of aging. Identifying malnutrition among elders can thus be difficult, especially when you are not able to see your loved ones every day. Especially if living conditions and facility menus seem well-thought-out, family members may not suspect a link between deteriorating health and nutrition.
Up to 50% of nursing home residents are lower in weight than recommended, a sign of how widespread the problem is. Most often, elders suffer from protein/energy under-nutrition (PEU), in which they do not receive enough calories or sufficient levels of protein. Humans cannot survive without protein, so the body begins to break down its own muscle to top up its stores. If untreated, the condition may eventually lead to death.
When to File a Nursing Home Abuse Case
Nursing home residents have a right to quality care, and if that promise is broken—purposefully or accidentally—the facility must assume liability for any harms caused. Malnutrition can lead to serious health problems and have adverse effects on overall health. Because its range of effects is so broad, caregivers may try to deny their fault.
A nursing home abuse attorney can help you compile a strong case if a nursing home has failed to provide adequate care to you or a loved one. You may be able to collect damages for medical expenses incurred and loss of health and life enjoyment.
Call us at (646) 681-7055 or contact us online with your questions about nursing home malnutrition.