Malnutrition is a blanket term that refers to either a surplus of nutrition or a nutrition deficiency. A deficiency exists when intake does not satisfy demand, while a surplus exists if more of a nutrient is being taken in than is being needed. A surplus is an excess of a nutrient, which can have a toxic effect on the body if too much is present. A person may take in an abnormal amount of a single nutrient, or a plurality of nutrients simultaneously. Nutrients exist in two forms: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients include protein, fat and carbohydrates. Malnutrition due to a lack of macronutrients is often referred to as “protein-energy malnutrition.” Micronutrients are other nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. A related blog discussing vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as protein deficiencies can be found here.
There are many groups of nursing home residents who are at risk of suffering from malnutrition due to a disease that they have. Many cases of malnutrition actually stem from a disease, and as such, nursing home residents who are at risk should be monitored carefully for signs of malnutrition.
What Kinds of Diseases Pose a Risk of Malnourishment?
Nursing home residents who have gastrointestinal diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease (a type of IBD) or celiac disease (which is triggered by gluten), have a significantly higher risk of becoming malnourished because these diseases are all known to cause pain when a person eats certain foods. Because people with these conditions often experience pain when they eat, they are less likely to eat at every meal, or may eat less than is healthy in order to avoid pain. Each one of these conditions can be managed in its own way: celiac disease can be managed by avoiding foods that contain gluten; IBD can usually be managed with anti-inflammatory drugs; and although there is no universal treatment for Crohn’s disease, many individuals are helped by taking anti-inflammatory drugs.
Certain cancers, and more specifically certain cancer treatments, can trigger malnutrition in nursing home residents. Many of the steroids that are used in cancer treatment suppress appetite. A specific example can be seen in lung cancer patients. Nearly three-fourths of lung cancer patients suffer from malnutrition due to vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies.
A number of neurological conditions can also cause malnutrition because residents are unable to remember whether they have eaten or may be unable to comprehend that they need to or should eat food. Furthermore, certain psychological conditions, such as depression, can suppress a resident’s appetite to such an extent that it causes malnutrition. Certain residents who have survived a stroke or other brain injury may have limited or depressed sense of taste or reduced sense of hunger due to damage in certain areas of the brain.
If you suspect that your loved one has suffered from malnourishment in the nursing home, you should not wait to contact a nursing home abuse attorney. Contact the attorneys at Rooth Law Firm today either online or by phone at (800) 350-0646.
R.J. Stratton et al., Disease-related Malnutrition, An Evidence-based Approach to Treatment