Nursing homes are facilities that are designed to provide a high level of care to those who are aging and suffer from certain health conditions that prevent them from engaging in self-care, such as dementia. Because the majority of patients who reside in a nursing home facility are unable to diagnose their own needs or assess the level of care that they are receiving, it is critical that nursing home staff members do everything possible to ensure adequate medical care, physical care, nutrition, and emotional and psychological care.
Unfortunately, despite the high duty of care that is placed on nursing homes and their staff, malnutrition is a serious concern within the nursing home setting. At the offices of the Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm LLC, our Minnesota nursing home neglect attorneys have seen the devastating effects that malnutrition can have on an elderly person, and are committed to protecting the rights of these residents and their families.
NURSING HOME MALNUTRITION – BY THE NUMBERS
Nursing home malnutrition is a serious problem, being called a “plague” by The Commonwealth Fund, which reports that at least one-third of all nursing home residents suffer from either dehydration, malnutrition, or both. According to another study, the results of which were published by the US National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health, about 20 percent of nursing home residents across the country suffer from malnutrition. These findings indicate that at least 320,000 nursing home residents are currently victims of nursing home malnutrition, a number that is far from appropriate or acceptable.
THE MANY CAUSES OF MALNUTRITION
Malnutrition means a lack of proper nutrition, which can stem from a variety of factors including:
- Not getting enough to eat;
- Not eating enough of the right things (i.e. healthy foods that meet mineral, nutrient, and macro needs); or/and
- Not being able to use the food one consumes properly as a result of a health condition.
In a nursing home setting, a resident may be malnourished as a result of:
- Inadequate nursing home staff to patient ratio;
- High nurse and other staff member turnover;
- Lack of individualized care;
- Poor treatment of chronic conditions (like depression, which is highly associated with malnutrition);
- Limited food choices, which often ignore residents’ preferences and cultural norms; and
- Unhealthy food options.
THE EFFECTS OF MALNUTRITION ON A NURSING HOME RESIDENT’S HEALTH
The effects of malnutrition on a nursing home resident’s health can be significant. Indeed, the study published by the National Institutes of Health cited above states: “Mortality was the major consequence of malnutrition among nursing home residents…”
In addition to mortality, other conditions that were associated with, or resulted from, malnutrition include:
- Weight loss and lower BMI;
- Muscle atrophy;
- Cognitive decline;
- Dental decay;
- Functional impairments;
- Skin problems;
- Mouth and eye concerns, including canker sores, impaired vision, and swollen corneas; and
- Overall decline in health and worsening of any medical conditions.
HOW CAN MALNUTRITION IN A NURSING HOME BE PREVENTED?
Malnutrition is not inevitable; proper planning and intervention can help to reduce the prevalence in nursing homes. Strategies for preventing malnutrition include ensuring that a nursing home staff member is only assigned to between one and three patients during mealtimes – numbers greater than this make ensuring that all patients are adequately fed difficult; treating patients with conditions that affect eating, ranging from dental problems to difficulties swallowing to depression and more; providing more food options that are both healthy and align with residents’ (cultural) preferences; and implementing the use of supplemental nutritional options, such as dietary supplements, to ensure that residents are consuming the nutrients they need.
WHEN MALNUTRITION LEADS TO HARM
While some types of physical abuse, such as burning or restraining, will have immediate and visible effects (like bruises or marks), malnutrition can be hard to spot at first, as it can take days, weeks, or months for the signs of malnutrition to show. For family members with elderly loved ones living in a nursing home, attending meal times to ensure that the elderly person is receiving the food they need is important.
If malnutrition does lead to harm, taking action to combat and put an end to malnutrition as soon as possible is essential. You should not wait to file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Health, speak with the doctor responsible for your elderly loved one’s care, and consult with a nursing home manager at the first signs of malnutrition. If the problem persists, transferring your loved one to a different nursing home facility where resident malnutrition is not an issue is recommended.
In addition to the actions above, if nursing home malnutrition has led to harm, such as the deterioration of a health condition, cognitive or emotional declines, or death, you should contact an experienced Minnesota nursing home malnutrition attorney immediately.
WHY WORKING WITH AN ATTORNEY IS RECOMMENDED
Nothing can change what has happened or the extent of harm that your loved one has faced, nor rewind and change history if malnutrition has resulted in serious injury or death. But working with an experienced nursing home attorney may be able to give you a sense of justice and closure that you need, hold the nursing home liable for harm and raise awareness about malnutrition that may help to protect other residents, and provide a method of recovering damages for economic and noneconomic losses you and your loved one have suffered. An attorney will handle all elements of your case, including a thorough investigation, filing your claim, negotiating for damages, and filing a lawsuit if necessary.
OUR ATTORNEYS ARE HERE FOR YOU
At the Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm LLC, our Minnesota nursing home malnutrition attorneys work with a number of experts and professionals, including doctors, who can help to build your case and will offer you the support you need throughout the process. Malnutrition is never okay, and if you suspect that your elderly loved one’s harm or death is the result of malnutrition, we implore you to take action today. Please contact our law firm directly by calling us now, or sending us a message that includes a brief description of your case.