Malnutrition is the second leading form of nursing home neglect. Malnutrition is the health condition that results from an unbalanced or inadequate diet, lacking in proper vitamins and nutrients to sustain healthy body function. Malnutrition also results from not having enough food to eat. Many nursing home residents may have dental problems, making eating difficult. Others suffer from dementia and may not know when they need to eat. Still, other residents may lack the ability to feed themselves.
Sometimes, nursing home residents who require assistance eating may suffer due to staff shortages. Others may decide not to eat their food if they have to wait too long or if the food gets cold.
Common Signs of Malnutrition
- Dry Skin
- Bloated Abdomen
- Organ Function Problems/Failure
- Rapid Mental Decline
- Bone Fragility, Weight Loss, Weakness
- Bleeding gums, tooth decay
- Chronic or Sudden Fatigue
Combating Malnutrition in Nursing Homes
Malnutrition can lead to complications like sepsis and inhibits the body’s ability to recover and fight off infection following an illness or surgery, both common occurrences with nursing home residents. Nursing homes should perform comprehensive assessments, which include screening for malnutrition-risk residents, within 24 hours of arrival.
Those with a loved one living in a nursing home should ask staff about their nutrition plans, food schedules, and programs to assist residents who need help eating. Program information should be clear and consistent. Anyone who is unsatisfied with a facility’s nutrition plan, or sees signs of malnutrition, should first contact the home’s management.