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Malnutrition Problems In Nursing Homes

Malnutrition Problems In Nursing HomesThe following article is being contributed by the Ohio law firm of Slater & Zurz LLP. The attorneys at Slater & Zurz LLP have handled over 500 nursing home abuse cases throughout the state of Ohio.  To learn more, please visit nutrition is extremely important as we grow older and a vital part of the health and care provided by nursing homes to their patients. Unfortunately, malnutrition of patients and other dietary problems are a painful reality in nursing homes.Malnutrition is a problem in and of itself. However, it can also lead to other problems, including infections, confusion, muscle weakness, organ failure and even death. A resident of a nursing home who is improperly nourished is more likely to suffer from frailty, immobility, falls, pressure ulcers, pneumonia, and decreased immunity to bacteria and viruses. The real tragedy is that malnutrition in nursing home patients is completely avoidable. All that is required is appropriate evaluation, proper planning and delivery of nutritious foods and fluids. But, tragically, many nursing homes do not follow these simple procedures and fail to provide this basic care.

Any new nursing home patient must be evaluated for dietary and nutritional needs by a physician. Based on the nutritional assessment, the nursing home facility must take steps to ensure that the resident maintains good nutritional health and must provide a resident with well-balanced, palatable meals. Any deviation from this plan can be considered to be nursing home abuse.

There are many factors that can cause nursing home malnutrition. These can include:

  • Illness
  • Adverse effects from medications such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cognitive disturbances, or sleepiness
  • Food and drug interactions which decrease the ability of the body to absorb vitamins and minerals
  • Depression
  • Swallowing disorders
  • Mouth problems like tooth loss, ill-fitting dentures, mouth sores, and mouth pain
  • Tremors, which affect a patient’s ability to feed himself or herself.

There are also other, non-medical causes of malnutrition in nursing home patients which are simply the result of the staff not paying the proper attention to the situation. These can include:

  • Inadequate attention from staff for residents who need assistance eating
  • Staff who are uneducated or not properly trained about malnutrition and proper ways to feed residents who need help
  • Reliance on liquid supplements
  • Improper delivery of special dietary needs
Signs of malnutrition include loose clothing; cracks around the mouth; pale lips and mouth; complaints about dentures that no longer fit; rapid hair loss; wounds taking longer than normal to heal; confusion; skin appearing to be breaking down; sunken eyes; and obvious weight loss.

If your loved one suffers from two or more of these symptoms, you may need to take a closer look at his or her nutrition.

Malnutrition is insidious. It can creep up on a nursing home patient and kill or cripple before anyone knows what is happening. If you suspect a loved one is suffering from malnutrition, do not hesitate to contact an attorney experienced with nursing home abuse cases. He or she will be able to provide you with answers to your questions and the guidance you need to take appropriate action.

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