Signs Of Malnutrition In A Nursing Home Resident

By Peter DePaolis

Washington, D.C. area nursing homes are expected to take care of their residents’ basic needs, such as feeding them and ensuring they have proper nutrition. Sadly, too many of these facilities neglect their responsibilities and leave their patients malnourished. Malnutrition is a common problem in negligent nursing homes, and one that could have fatal consequences for a resident. Knowing the signs of malnutrition, and then taking appropriate legal action, could help save a life.

Signs of Malnutrition

The dietary needs of an elderly person are different than those of someone younger because the body changes as we grow older. Malnutrition occurs when someone receives insufficient nutrient or energy intake. The human body will respond accordingly when it’s not being properly nourished, and a patient may display such signs as:

  • Weight loss, including decreased muscle mass
  • Hollow cheeks
  • Sunken eyes
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Difficulty concentrating

Malnutrition often leads to further complications, such as decreased ability of the body to properly function and a weakened immune system (which means increased susceptibility to diseases). If the body doesn’t receive the right foods, it will become deprived of essential nutrients like vitamin A, zinc, and iron. These cause further issues. As an example, iron deficiency makes it more difficult for the body to regulate its temperature. Decreased vitamin A increases the risk of infection.

A weaker body is also more likely to suffer an accident such as a slip and fall. The bones could become more brittle and prone to fractures, and injuries will heal more slowly. For these reasons, it’s imperative to take quick legal action if you suspect a loved one is being malnourished in their nursing home setting.

How does malnutrition happen?

Holding a nursing home liable for a resident’s malnutrition starts with understanding why it was allowed to happen in the first place. These are the most common reasons why patients don’t receive the proper nutrients:

  • Failure to assess a resident’s dietary needs. Many residents enter nursing homes with special diets and vitamin needs that have to be carefully followed. A responsible nursing home will have a plan of how to care for these.
  • Irresponsible and overworked staff. Even the best meal plan is useless if the nursing home staff don’t follow it. Negligent nurses and staff members, or those who have too many patients to take care of, are less likely to pay attention to dietary issues.
  • Failure to supervise. Residents often need to be reminded when and how to eat, and to stick to an appropriate meal schedule. The lack of active supervision could be the cause of a malnourished patient.

Nursing homes are legally obligated to take reasonable steps to protect the health and welfare of their residents. The above causes of malnourished residents could mean the facility has violated its duty of care and can therefore be held liable. Every case has to be evaluated on its individual merits. But generally, permitting a resident’s nutrition to deteriorate is a strong indicator that the nursing home is negligent.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home whose health has suffered because of malnutrition, prompt legal action is key to receiving the compensation necessary to cover medical bills and other necessary expenses. Reach out to the Washington, D.C. nursing home injury lawyers of Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP today.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.