Weight loss, infections and confusion are just a few of the serious health conditions to which dehydration and malnutrition can lead. Indeed, if allowed to progress, dehydration can lead to death. On the positive side, malnutrition and dehydration are avoidable. On the alarming side, both conditions are problems for the nation’s vulnerable nursing home residents. Some estimates place the number of nursing home residents who are malnourished at as many as four out of 10.
What Causes Malnutrition and Dehydration?
There can be many factors that influence a nursing home resident’s eating and drinking abilities. Among them:
- Physical strength that is compromised by illness
- Cognitive impairment
- Medication effects
- Environmental factors that impede appetite
- Inadequate staff to assist residents with eating
- Ill-fitting dentures or dental problems
- Illness that blocks the body’s ability to absorb nutrients
- Lack of proximity to water
Source: National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care
Freeman Injury Law, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach’s nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers, are capable advocates, ready to take action on behalf of nursing home residents who are suffering the ill effects of malnutrition or dehydration. Their expertise is a powerful weapon in the fight to ensure quality of care and respect for the dignity of nursing home residents who are too ill or too weak to speak up for themselves.
When individuals enter nursing homes, federal law requires that a nutritional assessment be conducted. The same law ensures that the assessment is repeated quarterly. Its aim is to call attention to what is known as a patient’s “intake” – their eating and drinking habits. Nursing homes are required to make sure that residents maintain their nutritional health. They are mandated to provide food that is appealing and that constitutes a balanced diet. Measures also must be taken to provide for the nutritional needs of patients who refuse to eat.
The signs of dehydration and malnutrition are varied, but unexplained weight loss should trigger suspicion. Lips and gums that appear unusually light in color may signal problems, as can cracked and dry lips. Infrequent urination and urine that is dark in color can be signs of trouble. Frequent complaints of thirst and skin that feels dry might also indicate nutrition or hydration issues. An individual who appears unusually disoriented and weak could be suffering as well.
Appetite loss can occur for many reasons and the changes in environment and daily habits that accompany entry to a nursing home or other care facility can have a profound effect on individuals. Medical testing can confirm nutritional status.
If you suspect that a loved one living in a nursing home is not receiving the food and liquids they need in order to maintain health and a good quality of life, consult the nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Freeman Injury Law. A free discussion with our knowledgeable nursing home lawyers can provide you with the information you need to ensure that your loved one’s rights are respected.