legal resources necessary to hold negligent facilities accountable.
Malnutrition in Nursing Homes
When nursing home residents don't get enough food and water, they may suffer from the physical and mental effects of nutrient deficiencies and dehydration. These consequences put them at risk of deterioration, illness, injury, and even early death.
Malnutrition in nursing homes is often a sign of neglect. It typically results from staff members failing to provide enough food and water to patients or addressing underlying issues preventing residents from eating or drinking. Whatever the reason may be, neglect is considered nursing home abuse.
Do you suspect that your loved one is suffering from nursing home neglect, malnutrition, or dehydration? If so, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, can help you prove negligence on the nursing home's part and take appropriate legal action.
Contact our nursing home abuse lawyers at (800) 926-7565 for a no-obligation consultation.
What is Malnutrition?
Malnutrition is deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances in a person's calorie and nutrient intake. The two types are 1) undernutrition, when a resident has a low weight for their height or age, and 2) overnutrition, which involves a resident being overweight or obese.
Undernutrition is the most common form of malnutrition among nursing home residents. However, overnutrition can also occur, although rarely.
The Effects of Malnutrition on Nursing Home Residents
Disabled and elderly individuals in nursing homes are prone to illnesses and drastic physical and mental changes. Hence, poor nutrition in an already vulnerable individual usually results in significant health effects, including:
- Low Weight: An underweight person may be more prone to several health problems, including osteoporosis, thinning skin, low immunity, anemia, and chronic fatigue.
- Weakened Immune System: Humans need proper nutrition to fight infections and other diseases. If malnutrition occurs, a nursing home resident may be more susceptible to frequent and recurring infections, such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and influenza. Similarly, malnourished elderly adults may experience slower healing from injuries or diseases.
- Weakness and Increased Frailty: Many older adults are generally weak due to their advanced ages. However, they may become even more frail and sensitive when malnourished, increasing the risk of illnesses and fall-related injuries.
- Risk Factors of Non-Communicable Diseases: Malnutrition in nursing homes can make patients more prone to diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and other non-communicable diseases.
- Scurvy: This condition can be caused by a lack of vitamin C in the diet. Older adults and children are particularly at risk.
- Bone and Joint Problems: A lack of vitamin D in the diet can cause bone pain, muscle weakness, and joint deformities. There is also an increased risk of injury due to softer bones.
- Mood Changes: Hunger, sudden weight loss, and malnutrition-related medical conditions can cause behavioral changes, such as increased irritability, inattention, or apathy. Some also experience reduced appetite due to gastrointestinal degradation.
- Cardiac Changes: Without adequate nutrition, a person may experience cardiac changes, such as low blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.
- Aggravation of Existing Medical Conditions: Malnutrition and dehydration can worsen existing conditions, increasing residents' morbidity and mortality risks.
Warning Signs of Malnutrition and Dehydration
Malnutrition often affects the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of a resident's well-being. A mini nutritional assessment could identify the following signs and symptoms of substandard clinical nutrition:
- Weight loss, low body weight relative to height and age
- Swelling in the face or abdomen
- Depleted fat and muscle, sunken eye sockets, prominent bones
- Weakness, fatigue, drowsiness
- Irritability, inattention, apathy
- Brittle hair
- Swallowing problems
- Increased cognitive impairment
- Frequent and severe infections
- Low body temperature, heart rate, and low blood pressure
- Dry skin, lesions
- Canker sores
- Reduced appetite
- Poor healing
Physical Conditions That Can Lead to Malnutrition
Malnutrition can result from physical conditions that prevent a person from eating or drinking normally, such as:
- Dysphagia: Malnutrition can result from dysphagia, a common condition among elderly people that causes difficulty swallowing.
- Dental Issues: An elderly individual with dental pain, missing teeth, gum problems, and other dental issues may have difficulty chewing.
- Illness: Chronic diseases, infections, and medications can reduce appetite and make eating difficult. These conditions can also come with dietary restrictions that may prevent patients from eating their usual meals, possibly leading to reduced food intake.
- Mental Health Issues: Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses can cause meal avoidance, poor appetite, apathy, voluntary social isolation, and other issues that can hinder adequate nutrition. Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, can also contribute to malnutrition.
Common Causes of Malnutrition in Nursing Home Facilities
Malnutrition and dehydration in nursing facilities usually occur due to:
- Inadequate Supervision: Some residents require supervision to ensure enough water and food intake. These residents may include dementia patients, people with eating disorders, and residents with poor eating habits.
- Insufficient Eating and Drinking Assistance: Nursing facility staff must assist residents who need help with eating or drinking. Otherwise, these residents may not get enough water or food into their mouths or simply refuse to eat out of embarrassment.
- Unappetizing Meals: One of the most crucial aspects of nursing home food service is ensuring that the meals are appetizing. Older adults are particularly prone to lower appetite due to loss of taste and smell, meaning they are less likely to eat if the food is uninviting.
- Unpleasant or Unsanitary Dining Environment: Nursing home residents may refuse to eat if their surroundings are dark, dirty, or undesirable. The lack of adequate amounts of what residents eat when on dietary restrictions might require staff to include dietary supplements.
- Failing to Address Health Conditions: Nursing homes must address the underlying issues preventing residents from eating and drinking correctly. These problems include mental health disorders, dental issues, chronic diseases, pain, pressure sores, and other illnesses and injuries.
- Social Isolation or Neglect: A nursing home resident lacking social stimuli can suffer from malnutrition due to unwillingness to eat, discomfort when dining with others, and decreased appetite.
- Intentional Neglect: In some cases, nursing home staff refuse to feed or hydrate patients as a “punishment.” Dementia patients are at a higher risk for this type of abuse.
In nursing homes, malnutrition is a significant problem that is usually a direct result of the following underlying issues among the elderly population:
- Understaffing or high turnover rates leading to a lack of proper care
- Inadequate training of nursing home staff on eating and drinking assistance
- Lack of individualized care, preventing proper nourishment for residents that need special diets
- Poor food service practices, causing unpalatable or uninviting meals
- Choosing cheaper food options to save money, leads to unappetizing or unhealthy foods
- Poor medical and oral care practices, leaving underlying medical conditions unaddressed
- Lack of policies, penalties, and procedures to prevent intentional neglect by nursing home staff
Malnutrition and Dehydration in Nursing Homes Increase the Risk of Falls
Falls are the leading cause of injuries and death in nursing homes. Older adults have a high risk of falling due to age-related changes, such as weakness, mental confusion, and balance problems. A deficient caloric intake increases that risk by weakening a person's psychological and physical health.
Falls can lead to severe injuries, especially among frail elderly patients. They can suffer traumatic brain injuries, fractures, lacerations, or even death from a simple fall.
Filing a Nursing Home Malnutrition Case
According to federal and state laws, every nursing home resident has the right to adequate food and water, and nursing homes are legally obligated to meet all patients' dietary needs.
Furthermore, nursing homes must prevent acts of neglect or abuse that can cause malnutrition. Failure to meet these responsibilities may constitute nursing home abuse.
Proving Malnutrition in Nursing Homes
When filing a nursing home malnutrition claim, you must prove the nursing home or assisted living facilities' role in the abuse or neglect. Evidence could include:
- Medical records showing the effects of malnutrition (e.g., weight records, blood tests, etc.)
- Victim's testimony highlighting instances of abuse or neglect
- Witness accounts from other residents detailing the negligence that led to your loved one's malnutrition
- Incident reports
Furthermore, you can prove the extent of your family's damages with:
- Psychological evaluations
- Hospital bills
- Victim's testimony
Compensation for Nursing Home Neglect Involving Malnutrition
Filing a nursing home abuse case against a negligent nursing home can help you recover financial compensation including:
- Medical Bills: The medical costs you've paid out-of-pocket for treating your loved one, including hospitalization, medication, emergency transportation, and therapy expenses.
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for emotional and physical injuries, including physical pain, emotional trauma, mental distress, etc.
- Loss of Quality of Life: Payment for quality of life lost due to nursing home abuse. Things that may count as a loss of quality of life include reduced independence, avoidance of usual activities due to trauma, etc.
- Wrongful Death: If your loved one dies due to malnutrition, you could recover wrongful death damages, including funeral and burial costs, pre-death medical treatment, and grief therapy for surviving family members.
How a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Can Help
Malnutrition in nursing homes is more common than you think. Unfortunately, many victims and families find it challenging to hold negligent nursing homes accountable without legal help.
If your family member is a victim of malnutrition caused by neglect, a nursing home abuse lawyer can help you with your case by:
- Investigating how and why the neglect happened
- Identifying the extent of your loved one's malnutrition and the effects on mental and physical health
- Determining your losses
- Gathering evidence to support your claim
- Filing your claim to the nursing home's insurance company
- Negotiating settlement values
Your lawyer will discuss these responsibilities further during your free consultation.
Contact an Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Today
Malnutrition in nursing home residents creates a significant risk of illness, injury, and even death. Food and water are fundamental human rights, and nursing homes that fail to respect these rights should face legal consequences.
Did you or a loved one suffer malnutrition in a nursing home or assisted living facility? If so, the Nursing Home Law Center, LLC attorneys can help you seek justice.
Our skilled lawyers defend victims of malnutrition in nursing homes and will do whatever it takes to ensure families obtain fair financial compensation.
Contact an attorney at (800) 926-7565 or use the contact form for a free case evaluation.
Our lawyers accept all nursing malnutrition cases on a contingency fee basis. This arrangement means you don't have to pay for our legal services unless we win your case.