Nursing homes are supposed to be safe, secure havens where our elderly relatives can live a healthy, happy, existence. Instead, some nursing homes are unsafe, and are actually providing harmful, neglectful care. There are many signs of nursing home neglect, which can cause serious injuries, or even death. Malnutrition is one of the most common problems facing nursing home residents, yet it is one that is not always recognized.
Causes of Malnutrition in Nursing Homes
Most people think that malnutrition is something that affects only people in third-world countries. That is simply not the case. Malnutrition is a concern among older people, especially those who live alone or in nursing homes .Nursing homes do not always provide the level of care that is necessary, especially when overseeing caloric intake. The elderly may have a reduced appetite, may have medications that cause stomach upsets, or may have dental problems that make eating more difficult. Other problems could also contribute to malnourishment. For example, residents may have difficulty using utensils or may require their food to be soft or cut into small pieces.
Why Malnutrition Goes Unnoticed
Malnutrition is a medical problem that can easily go unnoticed for a period of time. Caretakers should be monitoring nursing home residents and assisting them with their meals. Inadequate staffing or training can cause improper supervision of patients, especially during mealtime. Many elderly people do not realize that they are not getting enough nutrition and others do not have the ability to let anyone know. Some patients do not want to ask for help, even though they require it. Malnutrition occurs slowly, over time, so it is often not immediately noticed.
Effects of Malnutrition
The body requires a minimum daily caloric intake of the proper nutrients in order to properly fuel it. The lack of nutrition will begin to cause medical problems throughout the body and the organs. Some of the signs of malnutrition include muscle weakness, increased infections due to a weakened immune system, and poor healing of wounds. Additionally, the person will begin to lose weight, sometimes quite a bit. Malnutrition can also cause a lack of interest in food, and a further decreased appetite. Dehydration can accompany malnutrition because of a lack of fluid intake. As malnutrition worsens it can cause the organs to function improperly and may create reduced mental awareness. What makes malnutrition difficult to diagnose is that people often do not realize they are suffering from it.
Proper nutrition is more important in the elderly than in younger adults. Malnutrition can be prevented with proper attention and training. Caregivers should supervise the diets of their patients, including caloric and nutrient intake. Attention must be given to the overall daily intake of the patient, not just one meal. Staff must be aware of the amount of food the person actually eats, by assessing their food tray after they have finished the meal. If you suspect your loved one is suffering from malnutrition in a nursing home, have him or her evaluated immediately by a physician. Contact the experienced legal team at Levin & Perconti to discuss your case.
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