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What Are Telltale Signs of Malnutrition in Nursing Home Residents?

Published on Jun 17, 2022 at 1:15 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

senior citizen eating

No one wants to send their elderly or incapacitated loved one away to live in a nursing home. Most family members would find a way to take care of their loved ones themselves at home if they thought they could give them the adequate care they needed. That’s not feasible for many families, though.  

Why do families often hesitate to allow their loved ones to move into a nursing home? While family members hope that the nursing home will take adequate care of them, many of them have seen stories about abuse and neglect that occur in these facilities on the news. Malnourishment may be an example of this adverse treatment, which we’ll unpack throughout the remainder of this article. 

What Is Malnourishment? 

Our bodies rely on us receiving certain nutrients to support our everyday bodily functions. While many of us may get most of what we need from the foods we eat, we may need to consume vitamins and minerals to ensure our body receives adequate fuel to perform everyday processes like digestion or cell growth and regeneration.  

Malnourishment may refer to a situation in which someone: 

  • Doesn’t have access to enough food for consumption 
  • Can’t effectively absorb the nutrients that they consume 
  • Eats too little of the foods that their body needs to function adequately 

Malnutrition can affect all ages. It is a reversible condition if caught early on. However, it can cause permanent mental or physical impairments if left untreated. Malnutrition can also result in a person’s premature death. 

What Are Signs of Malnourishment? 

You’ve likely seen photographs or videos of malnourished individuals in third-world countries in a magazine or on television at some point in your life. You may have noted that the individuals pictured have distended stomachs and gaunt faces. While these indicators are certainly signs of malnourishment, an elderly loved one may present with additional signs of this deadly condition, including: 

  • Dizziness 
  • Low energy or fatigue 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Weight loss 
  • Cold sores and dry mouth 
  • An accumulation of fluid or swelling 
  • Skin conditions  
  • Cognitive impairments 

Individuals who are malnourished may experience just one of the above-referenced symptoms or a combination of them.  

Nursing home residents may experience dry mouth or develop cold sores because they’re dehydrated, a medical condition that often accompanies malnutrition. Some of the earliest signs of dehydration are if a loved one has dry or cracked lips, develops a yeast infection along their cheeks or tongue or experiences the onset of canker sores. 

Some signs that your nursing home resident loved one is suffering from a malnutrition-related skin condition is if their wrinkles or scars appear dry or their skin takes on a dull yellow hue.   

Cognitive issues attributable to malnutrition include irritability and challenges remembering things or keeping up with conversations.  

What Dangers Does a Nursing Home Residents’ Malnourishment Pose? 

A study published by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) in 2016 detailed how dangerous malnutrition is among elderly individuals. It can: 

  • Affect general bodily functions 
  • Lead to immunity deficiencies 
  • Give way to high rates of hospitalizations or readmissions 
  • Decrease bone mass 
  • Result in postsurgical recovery delays

As previously mentioned, malnutrition can also cause premature death. Our nursing home abuse attorneys have handled cases where suspected malnutrition resulted in significant adverse health outcomes for residents or fatalities. 

The Connection Between Malnutrition and Falls

When families approach a Louisville nursing home abuse lawyer here at Thomas Law Offices about their loved ones’ suspected ill-treatment at their nursing home, they often do so because they cannot connect the dots between different health indicators and an injury incident. Falls are often one such situation. 

At least 300,000 individuals annually end up being seen in hospital emergency rooms after suffering a hip fracture attributable to a fall. Many of those patients treated for these debilitating bone breaks are elderly individuals, such as nursing home residents. 

While a bone fracture may have occurred for innocuous reasons, such as a nursing home resident losing their footing or while being turned in their beds, these situations may point to bigger concerns. 

A nursing home resident who wasn’t being tended to adequately may have attempted to get up on their own and fell because they didn’t have another party’s support to get around. A broken hip that occurs while a resident is being rotated may have also occurred because a nursing home worker had to carry it out singlehandedly because their employer didn’t offer adequate lifts or ensure a second person was available to aid in the process.  

As for where malnutrition fits into all of this? As you’ll remember in the discussion earlier in this article about the dangers associated with malnourishment, it can affect bone density, which could be responsible for your loved one’s hip fracture. Also, the dizziness and fatigue that often accompanies malnutrition may lead a nursing home resident who can generally get around with relative ease vulnerable to having a fall. 

Who Can You Hold Accountable for a Nursing Home Resident’s Health Declines? 

All of us may experience declines in health as we age. More commonly than not, these outcomes may be attributable to natural processes associated with aging, such as suppression of our appetites, a decline in our bone density, and a slowing of our metabolisms. However, there is a small chance that they’re attributable to a nursing home facility’s negligence in ensuring your loved one received adequate nutrition. This is where a Louisville nursing home abuse lawyer from our office can help. 

Our nursing home abuse attorneys have handled enough cases like these to know when it appears that negligence resulted in adverse outcomes. We don’t just rely on our intuition and experience, though. We are well-connected to a team of medical professionals who can review your loved one’s medical records and accident details and connect those proverbial dots. 

Proving negligence is seldom straightforward, but rest assured that the complexities that must be overcome to prove liability don’t daunt our Thomas Law Offices attorneys. This is the relentless attitude your Louisville nursing home abuse lawyer needs to have when pursuing a negligence or abuse case against an assisted living facility like this. Contact us to get your risk-free case review on our calendar. It’s the first step to holding a negligent party accountable. 

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Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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