If your loved one is in a nursing home, it is safe to say that you assume that they are being taken care of. Nutrition is a key factor to your loved one’s health. It is the nursing homes responsibility to make sure that your loved one has a proper nutritional plan that takes into consideration your loved ones health needs.
The Mayo Clinic outlines the importance of nutrition to the elderly. Although malnutrition seems pretty simple, it is actually a very complex issue. According to the Mayo Clinic:
Malnutrition is often caused by a combination of physical, social and psychological issues. For example:
- Health concerns. Older adults often have health problems, such as dementia or dental issues, that can lead to decreased appetite or trouble eating. Other factors that might play a role include a chronic illness, use of certain medications, difficulty swallowing or absorbing nutrients, a recent hospitalization, a diminished sense of taste or smell, or abdominal issues, such as pain or bloating.
- Restricted diets. Dietary restrictions — such as limits on salt, fat, protein or sugar — can help manage certain medical conditions, but might also contribute to inadequate eating.
- Limited income. Some older adults might have trouble affording groceries, especially if they’re taking expensive medications.
- Reduced social contact. Older adults who eat alone might not enjoy meals as before, causing them to lose interest in cooking and eating.
- Limited access to food. Many older adults do not drive and may not have access to food or the right types of food.
- Depression. Grief, loneliness, failing health, lack of mobility and other factors might contribute to depression — causing loss of appetite.
- Alcoholism. Too much alcohol can interfere with the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Nutrients might also be lacking if alcohol is substituted for meals.
While not all of these are applicable to your loved one’s nursing home situation, they certainly are signs to be aware of. For example, health concerns such as dementia, limit ones ability to remember when they ate last. Nursing homes should be aware of the proper steps to make sure your loved one is nourished.
Signs of Malnutrition
The Mayo Clinic article also reports on ways to spot malnutrition. If you see any of these signs in your loved one, it is extremely important to contact your loved ones medical provider or get them medical attention immediately.
The signs of malnutrition in older adults can be tough to spot, especially in people who don’t seem at risk — but uncovering problems at the earliest stage can help prevent complications. To detect malnutrition:
- Observe your loved one’s eating habits. Spend time with your loved one during meals at home, not just on special occasions. If your loved one lives alone, find out who buys his or her food. If your loved one is in a hospital or long-term care facility, visit during mealtimes.
- Watch for weight loss. Help your loved one monitor his or her weight at home. You might also watch for other signs of weight loss, such as changes in how clothing fits.
- Be alert to other red flags. In addition to weight loss, malnutrition can cause poor wound healing and dental difficulties. It may also cause weakness, which can result in falls.
- Know your loved one’s medications. Many drugs affect appetite, digestion and nutrient absorption.
There are many horror stories of loved ones seeing dramatic and unexplained weight loss, and the results are fatal. If you have concerns, you should immediately take action.
Resources for Elderly Malnutrition
You can visit several resources that can help you answer questions regarding malnutrition:
- You can visit the Mayo Clinic site here.
- You can also visit our site here.
- You can visit the Ohio Department of Aging here.
If you have any questions about an incident that involves your loved one and potential neglect. Please, contact me here. I will launch an investigation and will determine whether or not the nursing home needs to be held accountable.