It is estimated that at least one-third of the nation’s 1.6 million nursing home residents suffer from malnutrition or dehydration. One study estimated that the number may be as high as 85 percent. This is comparable to malnutrition rates in third-world countries!
Malnutrition and dehydration can aggravate already existing medical problems or cause more severe problems such as tooth decay, broken bones, anemia and low blood pressure. In some cases, these conditions can lead to death.
Signs of dehydration and malnutrition include:
• Obvious weight loss, loose fitting clothes
• Loose fitting dentures
• Cracks around the mouth
• Pale lips or mouth
• Thinning hair
• Skin breakdown
• Sunken eyes
• Wounds that take a long time to heal
• Confusionnursing homes meet the nutritional needs of their residents. While nursing homes may have food available, they may not be providing the necessary assistance that the resident needs in order to eat. A nursing home may cause or contribute to malnutrition or dehydration in several ways:
• Failure to provide an appropriate diet
• Failure to educate staff about the best way to assist residents with eating or drinking
• Failure to assist with eating or drinking when assistance is required
• Failure to provide food that is soft enough for the resident to chew
• Failure to provide individualized care
• Failure to provide fresh water
• Failure to open drink cartons for residents requiring assistance
• Leaving food or drink out of reach of residents
• Relying on liquid supplements rather than encouraging residents to eat or drink
• A chaotic dining environment
• Limiting time for meals
• Failure to administer tube feedings
• Serving food that is unappetizing
If your loved one is exhibiting signs of malnutrition or dehydration, ask if anything has changed. Has the resident started new medication or a new diet? Ask your loved one about the food. Does she get enough time to eat? Does she get the help she needs? Is the food ok?
If you have concerns, let the nursing home staff know about the symptoms you’ve observed. Write down the symptoms the date, and the nursing home’s response. Request a meeting with the administrator to speak about your concerns. Ask your loved one’s doctor to check him for malnutrition or dehydration and run a blood test to check for vitamin deficiencies.
If no changes are made, or your loved one continues to suffer, contact the office of the elder care ombudsman.
If you need more help, contact Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys. Our Kansas City nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys have put together a free guide, Nursing Home Neglect – How To Recognize And Stop It. If you still have concerns, call our office at 888-348-2616.