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
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 requires that nursing 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.

Has Your Loved One Been Injured In A Nursing Home?

If you believe your loved one is being subjected to nursing home abuse you need to speak with an experienced nursing home neglect attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule a free consultation.

James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.