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How to Spot Elder Malnutrition in Nursing Homes

By The Husband and Wife Law Team on November 18, 2016

Malnutrition is when the body has nutritional deficiencies. Ordinarily, those who consume a balanced diet will receive the majority of the nutrients needed. Our bodies require various vitamins and minerals which are critical to disease prevention. Most nutrients aren’t naturally generated within the body; therefore, must be sourced elsewhere. Many foods available in the grocery aisle are said to be “fortified” by adding in nutrients that our systems require.

In our society we have diseases associated with over-consumption such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity; conversely, malnutrition is likely to result from a lack of consumption and is most common in older adults. In instances of malnutrition in nursing homes, it is likely that the individual may also be dehydrated.

Reasons for Nursing Home Malnutrition

  • Difficulty swallowing: Often those who have had a stroke or some neurological problems find themselves having difficulty ingesting food or liquid.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea: Residents with weakened immune systems are susceptible to viruses resulting in vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Side effects of medications: Many may suppress appetite; interactions between several medications can also lessen appetite.
  • Nursing home support staff poorly trained: Staff may not be aware of the residents who struggle at times to feed themselves; or may not be trained to examine each resident’s consumption.
  • Understaffing: Staff is assisting too many residents at meal-time; therefore, unable to adequately supervise.
  • Dementia: Those with memory loss are likely to claim that they have already eaten, or they may miss a meal completely and not have recollection.
  • Unappealing food: Perhaps the resident doesn’t enjoy any of the offerings available on certain days; or the variety is too limited.
  • Ethnic and cultural food preferences are ignored: One example would be those native to Asia, who often have dramatically different diets compared to Americans, or strict religious-based dietary restrictions.
  • Incontinence: The resident may be experiencing periodic incontinence resulting in anger or embarrassment; psychologically, the resident may dramatically limit consumption, thinking that it will reduce the likelihood of an episode.
  • Dental problems: Unaddressed tooth decay or the absence of teeth may limit their options. They may experience pain or discomfort when eating foods, but are reluctant to alert staff because they dislike dental procedures.

Common Indicators of Malnutrition

  • Noticeable weight loss
  • Audible sounds resulting from a sticky, dry mouth; their tongue is brown and dry
  • Excessive thirst.
  • Dry, inelastic skin or dried out lips
  • Darker urine or infrequent bathroom usage
  • Sunken eyes or cheeks
  • Rapid breathing or heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Inability to sweat
  • Confusion and general irritability
  • Periods of delirium or unconsciousness

If you have a loved one that has been victimized by nursing home malnutrition or dehydration, you should contact Husband and Wife Law Team at (602) 457-6222 for a free initial consultation.

Posted in: Nursing Home Abuse

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