Malnutrition occurs in nursing homes for various reasons. Many nursing home residents have health conditions that affect their nutrition intake. Some residents may have decreased functional ability or dental issues that make chewing and eating difficult. They may experience a diminished sense of taste due to medicine or a health condition, making food taste bland. Residents may also experience a decreased appetite because of certain medications, or because of conditions like depression, while residents with dementia may forget to eat at appropriate times.
Nursing homes can also contribute to malnutrition through staffing shortages and inadequate training for caregivers. When nursing homes are short on staff, there are not enough people to properly assess residents for specific nutritional needs, monitor residents for signs of malnutrition, and provide nutrition for each resident on a regular basis. In other cases, caregivers may not understand the importance of proper nutrition for residents, or they may not know a resident has certain dietary needs. This often happens in nursing homes with a high rate of employee turnover. Those who suspect their loved ones are not receiving proper care should contact a Georgia nursing home malnutrition lawyer right away.
Signs of malnutrition include weight loss, loss of fat, depression, difficulty breathing, low body temperature or hypothermia, a weakened immune system, fatigue, irritability, feeling cold, and recovering abnormally slowly from illness, infection, or injury. People suffering from malnutrition may also have reduced muscle and tissue mass, and may become physically weak.
In extreme cases of malnutrition, the signs are more noticeable. The cheeks may appear hollow, while the eyes may look sunken. The skin may be thin and dry, or pale and cold, and may lose its elasticity. Hair may become dry and fall out easily. Someone suffering from severe malnutrition may become unresponsive or fall into a stupor, and may experience heart failure, respiratory failure, or liver failure.
In elderly people, malnutrition often leads to muscle weakness, which can cause falls and fractures. It also leads to poor wound healing, meaning injuries heal very slowly, and a greater risk of infection because of a weakened immune system. Malnutrition may cause the mouth to become bright red, with canker sores and possibly white patches on the tongue and cheeks. It may also cause the eyes to become red and glassy, with swollen corneas.
To prevent malnutrition, a nursing home should assess each resident and create a care plan based on that assessment. This care plan should include a dietary element designed to provide for the resident’s specific nutritional needs. Some residents may be more at risk for malnutrition, or may have more extensive dietary needs based on poor health, certain medications or certain health conditions. Caregivers should take these needs into consideration when developing a care plan.
Nursing homes may choose to add nutritional supplements like vitamins to a resident’s diet or add in snacks between meals. In some cases, caregivers may need to remind residents to eat, and may need to provide assistance for residents with decreased functional ability.
Staff should be trained on the importance of nutrition for elderly adults, and as much as possible, nursing homes should serve food that will be appealing to residents.
Nursing homes should also hire enough staff members and caregivers to meet the needs of their residents, as understaffing often causes neglect which can lead to malnutrition and other issues.
In many cases, nursing homes can be held responsible for malnutrition. Georgia nursing home law requires nursing homes to do all they can to maintain good nutrition for residents. While the law does specify that, in certain circumstances, a resident’s condition may make it impossible to maintain healthy nutrition, it obligates nursing homes and caregivers to provide adequate nutrition when possible and to take every precaution to ensure residents’ nutritional needs are met.
Nursing homes are also required to monitor residents closely for signs of malnutrition, and provide prompt treatment for any malnourished residents. The law also requires caregivers to reassess residents on a regular basis and ensure their nutritional needs are being met.
A nursing home that fails to provide its residents with adequate nutrition, or that fails to properly assess a resident’s nutritional needs and act accordingly, may be guilty of neglect, in which case the facility will be required to compensate the resident for things like medical bills, related expenses, and any pain and suffering experienced by the resident because of malnutrition.
If you suspect your loved one has been a victim of malnutrition, you should get immediate medical help for your loved one. Treatment for malnutrition usually involves a dietary plan based on the patient’s individual needs, and may include nutritional supplements if necessary. In some cases, treatment may include artificial supplements as well. Along with a dietary plan, treatment for malnutrition should involve close monitoring of the patient and regular reassessments.
If you suspect your loved one has been a victim of malnutrition due to neglect on the part of a nursing home, you should report the nursing home for neglect, which you can do by contacting Georgia Healthcare Facility – the organization responsible for monitoring nursing homes in Georgia – and give details of your loved one’s situation.
Finally, if you suspect your loved one has been a victim of malnutrition please call and speak to one of our experienced Georgia nursing home malnutrition lawyers to find out if you have a case against the nursing home. If the nursing home has neglected your loved one, you may be able to receive financial compensation for your loved one’s suffering and for any related medical bills.