If your loved one lives in a nursing home, he or she is not immune to malnutrition or dehydration by any means. In fact, various reports show that up to 85 percent of elderly individuals in nursing homes suffer from some form of undernourishment each year. Unfortunately, poorly trained or negligent nursing home professionals often miss diagnosing malnutrition, which can lead to serious health complications and even death.
Understanding the Leading Signs and Symptoms of Malnutrition
To help you protect your loved one against malnutrition and its potentially deadly consequences, we’ve compiled this list of the top nine signs of undernourishment in nursing home residents:
- Weight loss: Rapid or severe weight loss is the number one sign that your loved one may not be getting the proper nutrition. Keep your eyes open for clothes that start hanging more loosely than normal.
- Fatigue: Exhaustion and fatigue are commonplace among undernourished nursing home patients. A balanced diet with appropriate levels of nutrients helps to keep energy levels up. Without those nutrients, the body starts to shut down.
- Dizziness: If your loved one mentions feeling lightheaded when standing or difficulty sitting up, this could be a sign of malnutrition, as lightheadedness and dizziness commonly follow from lack of nutrition and hydration.
- Constipation: If your loved one’s daily diet does not include enough fiber, he or she can become constipated.
- Reduced muscle mass: Protein and vitamin D play a large role in maintaining a good level of muscle mass. Without a balanced diet that includes these nutrients, however, muscle mass can deteriorate quickly.
- Dental problems: Poor nutrition leads to poor dental health. Poor dental health, including swollen and/or bleeding gums and tooth decay, can also cause low food intake and malnutrition. Make sure your loved one receives the proper dental care he or she needs by working it into the daily care plan.
- Extended recovery time: Elderly individuals who suffer from malnutrition take more time to recover from illnesses and infections. They are also more susceptible to infections, which only makes a bad situation worse.
- Slow healing time: Like the sign listed above, it takes malnourished individuals longer for their bruises and wounds to heal. Malnourishment also increases the likelihood that more wounds, such as bed sores, will appear.
- Mood changes: Lack of proper nutrition quickly leads to a deteriorating outlook on life. Common mood changes include irritability, irrationality and even depression. If you notice a significant mood change in your loved one that doesn’t go away after a few days, ask his or her care providers to look into potential causes.
Take Action If You Are Worried About Undernourishment
Pay close attention to these signs and symptoms, and ensure that your loved one’s care providers do the same. If you believe your loved one’s care providers are not properly taking care of your loved one’s nutrition levels, or are not taking proper steps to avoid malnutrition, call us at (800) 350-0646 or contact The Rooth Law Firm online. We can speak with you about your concerns and help you understand whether you have a potential claim for nursing home neglect or abuse.