Nursing home abuse can take many forms, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial exploitation, and even malnutrition. Malnutrition is often a result of neglect on the part of the nursing home staff, and unfortunately, it happens all too often in American nursing homes. According to one study from 2015, approximately 20% of all nursing home residents are malnourished.
Malnutrition can be described as any condition in which the victim is not receiving the proper nutritional intake. This could be too much or too little food, or the wrong kind of nutrition for that person’s physical needs.
There are four main reasons why malnutrition is so prevalent in nursing homes: staff neglect, the resident’s physical health problems, mental illness such as dementia, and social isolation. Sometimes, these factors interact with each other, increasing a patient’s risk of malnourishment. In all of these cases, additional care and attention is required of the nursing home doctors, nurses, and staff to address the risk of malnutrition, but, too often, this attention is left wanting.
Contact a nursing home abuse lawyer in Lexington at Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP today if you believe you’re loved one has suffered malnutrition due to neglect in their nursing home. Help for your love one is just a phone call away. Contact us at (859) 550-2900.
Neglect of Residents
One of the biggest causes of malnutrition in nursing homes is the staff and nurses’ neglect of their patients. Many American nursing homes are understaffed, which leads to poor staff training, burnout, high turnover, and staff members and nurses being spread too thin.
In some cases, one certified nursing assistant will be responsible for as many as 12 residents during mealtime. This ratio should ideally be 1:2 or 1:3. Some nursing home residents are unable to feed themselves and require extra attention throughout the day and at mealtimes, but too often, staff members are too busy taking care of other patients to help them.
Additionally, high turnover within the nursing home staff diminishes the valuable relationships that can form between the staff members and residents. When residents feel that the staff members don’t know them or care about them, or especially aren’t familiar with their dietary restrictions and needs, they could feel neglected, and for good reason.
Physical Health Issues Impede Malnutrition
Elderly residents often suffer from physical problems that impair their ability to eat freely. Because of this, they need extra attention and assistance during mealtimes, or else they may not be able to consume the appropriate amount of nutrients on their own.
One of the biggest physical health issues that gets in the way of an elderly person’s ability to eat is tooth decay. When someone has severe arthritis, it can be too painful for them to brush their teeth every day. And for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, the task of brushing their teeth might seem insurmountable, and they will need assistance with it twice a day. Excess sugar and plaque buildup on teeth lead to cavities and tooth decay, which makes eating and drinking painful.
Additionally, some medications interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. According to Merck Manual, antiseizure medications can cause a vitamin D deficiency, which could lead to brittle bones. Proton pump inhibitors might cause vitamin B12, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and magnesium deficiencies.
Other physical health issues that interfere with a person’s ability to eat are:
- Chronic illnesses
- Recent hospitalizations
- Diminished sense of smell and taste
- Abdominal pain and bloating
What these additional hurdles mean is that nursing home doctors, nurses, and staff need to pay that much more attention to patients in need of extra care, especially in terms of nutrition planning and assistance with eating.
Mental Health Issues Impede Malnutrition
People who struggle with mental health issues, such as depression or dementia, will have a more difficult time eating regularly and planning their meals. People with dementia often struggle with performing daily tasks such as brushing their teeth and cooking. And people who have depression might struggle even to get out of bed or go to the grocery store.
For people with depression who live in nursing homes, they might not show any interest in eating and will require extra care and attention to entice them to eat nutritiously. When the nurses and staff don’t give patients the help they need to sustain their nutritional needs, it’s a form of neglect.
Social and Economic Factors
The elderly population who live in nursing homes are often forced to deal with a number of social and economic challenges, such as eating alone and having to pick between spending their limited income on food or medications.
When the elderly are forced to eat their meals alone, because of quarantine, hospitalization, or other reasons, they lose interest in eating and will start to avoid it. Other factors that affect an older person’s nutritional intake are grief, loneliness, medication side effects such as nausea and depression, immobility, and bland food resulting from dietary restrictions.
Recognizing the Signs of Malnutrition
It is important to be aware of the warning signs of a malnourished resident to better assist them before it becomes deadly. After all, malnourished nursing home residents with a low BMI (body mass index) have a higher risk of dying than those with a higher BMI. Look for signs of malnutrition, such as:
- Mouth ulcers
- Oral thrush (an accumulation of fungus in the mouth)
- Impaired cognition, like struggling to communicate
- Fatigue and dizziness
- Yellowing skin
In addition to watching for symptoms, it is important to stay in communication with your loved one’s nursing home staff and doctors to keep abreast of their health condition. Working with an elderly loved one’s staff to plan meals, budget spending for healthy foods, plan an exercise regimen including fresh air, and manage their medications’ side effects will greatly decrease their risk of malnutrition.
If malnutrition goes undetected or untreated, the elderly resident is at a higher risk of severe weight loss, weakness and fatigue, oral decay, and bedsores.
Contact a Lexington Nursing Home Malnutrition Lawyer
If your loved one was the victim of malnutrition due to neglect or intentional abuse on the part of their nursing home caretakers, contact an attorney at Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP. We understand the emotional stress that comes along with taking legal action on behalf of your loved one, and we want to do the hard work so your family can focus on healing.
We have proudly represented numerous victims of nursing home abuse in the past, and we are ready to fight for your loved one. Call our office at (859) 550-2900 to discuss your legal options today.