Although malnutrition and dehydration may stem from the side effects of medication, dental problems or physical disabilities, these potentially life-threatening conditions can and often do result from nursing home neglect.
When a nursing home is understaffed or fails to properly train its staff, its employees may lack the ability or means to properly monitor the eating and drinking habits of the residents they are in charge of caring for. Many of the residents of nursing homes require assistance when eating and drinking. Some cannot verbally communicate their needs or wants which makes this group of individuals very vulnerable to the risk of malnutrition and dehydration.
When a person is suffering from malnutrition, it does not necessarily mean that person was not given enough food to eat as it is possible to be malnourished due to an unbalanced diet or being unable to properly assimilate nutrients. Dehydration occurs when a person does not ingest enough liquid wherein their fluid loss drops to more than 3 percent of their normal body weight.
Nursing home residents may suffer from malnutrition when there is a poor staff to patient ratio. For instance, if there are not enough staff members available to feed all the residents of a facility, some may go unfed or be fed less food than what they should have due to the staff rushing through meal times. Malnutrition can occur among residents who have problems swallowing, digestive disorders or whom are unable to chew certain foods wherein they do not eat enough. Dental problems can also lead to malnutrition. Some mental disorders such as dementia or depression can lead to malnutrition and dehydration as people suffering from these conditions are typically not interested in eating nor do they show signs of even being hungry.
Residents of nursing homes are very vulnerable to malnutrition and dehydration as they often cannot monitor their own food and liquid intake and the staff may simply be too pre-occupied to notice. Even those residents who can eat and drink on their own often suffer from a loss of taste and smell which leads them to eating and drinking less. This all clearly indicates that it is of the utmost importance that nursing home administrators and staff closely monitor the eating and drinking habits of the residents they are caring for.
A well-run nursing home will take appropriate measures to ensure that their residents do eat and drink enough. These facilities keep detailed records of food and liquid intake. They also make sure that any nutritional supplements prescribed to their residents are administered as directed.
Signs that Your Loved One May not Be Getting Enough Food and Liquid
When residents of nursing homes are not given enough food and liquid, they are victims of nursing home neglect. There are some warning signs to watch for that may indicate your loved one is not ingesting the appropriate amount of food and liquid and they are:
Broken bones – Malnutrition and dehydration both can greatly weaken a person wherein they are at risk of falling and injuring themselves. It is common for nursing home residents who don’t eat and drink enough to become weak and unsteady wherein they fall and suffer from fractures such as broken hips, ankles, arms and wrists.
Bedsores – Bedsores can be an indicator that a nursing home resident is not being repositioned and moved often enough wherein he/she is not being given the opportunity to eat and drink.
Weight loss and decreased muscle mass – When a person does not eat or drink enough, they will naturally lose weight and muscle mass.
Pneumonia – When nursing home residents are not moved regularly, fluid can collect in their lungs wherein they develop life-threatening and hard-to-treat pneumonia. A resident who spends a lot of time in bed and who is not moved into an upright position or taken to a dining area in order to eat and drink runs a high risk of developing pneumonia.
Urinary infections as well infections elsewhere in the body – Infections, including those that affect the urinary track are common among individuals who are dehydrated as they simply are not drinking enough liquid to flush the body of toxins.
Constipation and decreased urine output – When someone is not drinking or being given adequate amounts of liquid, they often cannot pass bowel movements nor expel adequate amounts of urine.
What You Should Do
If you notice that a loved one is showing signs of malnutrition or dehydration, it’s essential that you speak to the nursing staff and the doctor right away to express your concerns. Death can occur quickly in dehydrated and malnourished individuals and even faster among frail nursing home residents who are not in the best of health. It could be that the facility your loved one is living in is being neglectful. If this is the case, the facility’s negligence can lead to the death of your loved one as well as to the deaths of others living in the facility.
Why This Type of Neglect Occurs
Malnutrition and dehydration in nursing homes can happen due to:
- The nursing home failing to hire enough staff to properly feed the residents
- The failure on the part of the direct-care staff to pay attention while residents are eating to ensure that they get enough food and water
- The negligence of staff to help disabled residents eat and drink
- The failure of administrative staff to properly train its personnel in the importance of good nutrition among the elderly
- Failure on the part of direct care staff to watch over residents during meals to ensure they eat and drink
- Staff “punishing” residents by withholding food and water due to behavioral issues or general dislike of the resident(s). When a nursing home patient is deliberately denied food and water, he or she is a victim of nursing home abuse.
Requirements Under Law Pertaining to Food and Liquids
Under law, nursing homes must provide each resident with a nourishing, well-balanced, palatable diet that meets daily nutritional and special dietary needs. They also must:
- Serve at least three meals each day at regular times
- Provide each resident with a plentiful supply of fresh water and other fluids to maintain proper hydration and health
- Provide any resident in need of assistance with any help needed as well as encouragement to drink
- Offer evening snacks
- Offer a food substitute of similar nutritional value if a resident refuses food
- Provided individualized assistance to residents who need help with meals and offer adequate assistance that allows residents to finish their meals
- Provide special diets to residents with nutritional problems
- Prepare and follow menus that meet US dietary standards
Unfortunately, malnutrition and dehydration are common in California nursing homes. At Hogan Injury, we help hold nursing home owners and operators accountable for neglect and abuse. We understand how upsetting it is to discover that your loved one is not being cared for properly while living in a nursing home. We can help you take the appropriate course of action that will help protect your loved one from further harm. We know that your loved one’s life may be at stake so we will work swiftly to get to the bottom of why this has happened and to find out who is legally responsible.
Your loved one is counting on you to look out for his/her best interest so do not waste any time. Call our San Francisco nursing home neglect attorneys today to set up your free initial consultation. We are passionate about putting an end to nursing home neglect and abuse. We will strive to help you and your loved one obtain any compensation you may be eligible for.