Identifying Malnutrition and Nursing Home Neglect – The Signs

Identifying Malnutrition and Nursing Home Neglect – The SignsWhen you have a loved one in a nursing home or long-term care facility, you have to trust that they are receiving the care and attention they need and deserve. However, in some cases, residents may experience negligence or even abuse that results in inadequate nourishment and hydration. When not addressed properly, the elderly can suffer from serious side effects, like bedsores, vitamin deficiencies and severe weight loss.

This is not a rare issue. Some studies report that nearly one-third of nursing home residents suffer from malnutrition and/or dehydration. Although malnutrition or dehydration may not always be a sign of physical abuse, alert loved ones should look for certain signs that indicate nursing home negligence, like:

  • Significant and unexplained weight loss with no medical intervention
  • Staff does not adhere to an appropriate meal schedule or diet program
  • Your loved one cannot feed themselves but staff has not made proper accommodations
  • Your loved one complains about food choices but is not offered alternatives
  • Your loved one complains of hunger, is afraid to eat, or does not attend mealtime
  • Your loved one is in chronic pain or gastrointestinal distress
  • Your loved one develops bedsores

Another red flag of nursing home neglect is if facility staff or health care professionals fail to communicate with you regarding your loved one’s nutritional, dietary, or medical needs.

What are the four types of malnutrition?

According to the World Health Organization, there are four sub-forms of malnutrition:

  • Undernutrition. People who are undernourished lack proper food calories and nutrition. An individual is usually considered underweight when their body mass is 15% below their normal BMI range. Undernutrition is the most common reason for malnutrition in nursing home and care facilities.
  • Deficiencies. A nutritional deficiency happens when a person does not get enough of a specific nutrient or vitamin. This can happen if the body is unable to absorb nutrients or if it is not getting enough food containing certain nutrients. One example of this is scurvy, a condition occurring from lack of Vitamin C.
  • Stunting. This is the term used for someone who has a low height for their age, a condition that can happen from lack of proper nutrition. Typically, stunting is an issue with children and not found in nursing homes.
  • Wasting. Wasting is the word used for people who have too low a weight for their age, usually due to lack of access to food or due to disease. Again, this is usually not an issue found in nursing homes.

How nursing home staff can prevent malnutrition

Nursing home staff are there to provide care and compassion to your loved one, and ensure that they maintain their dignity and health. Part of this care involves ensuring they have a healthy diet with the proper amount of food and fluids. If a resident is unwilling or unable to eat or drink sufficient amounts, staff should address this and bring the situation to the attention of the appropriate parties. The earlier any health issues are handled, the lesser the danger to your loved one.

The nursing home negligence attorneys at McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC protect our vulnerable victims of long-term care facility abuse and neglect. We hold these facilities and staff accountable when their failure to act causes injury to your loved one. To schedule a free consultation with one of our South Carolina attorneys, call 803-327-7800, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.