Nursing homes serve some of the most vulnerable: older adults who can no longer live independently and may have debilitating physical or mental conditions.
Unfortunately, even though these individuals often require a high level of care, nursing home neglect is all too common. Whether due to understaffing, poor training or lack of oversight, one of the most common forms of neglect is the failure to ensure residents receive adequate nutrition and hydration.
What are the signs of dehydration or malnutrition?
In addition to fatigue and dizziness, signs of poor nutrition may include:
- Unusual weight loss
- Pale and/or dry skin
- Hollowed cheeks or eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen stomach, arms and/or lower legs (edema)
Dehydration may also cause fatigue and lightheadedness, as well as excessive thirst, severe vomiting and/or diarrhea, infrequent urination and a weak, rapid pulse.
Both malnutrition and dehydration may also cause mental or emotional symptoms, including disorientation/unusual confusion, increased irritability, anxiety or depression.
What other problems may malnutrition cause?
Older adults experiencing malnutrition may have a weakened immune system, leading to slower wound healing and a higher risk of infections. Additionally, muscle weakness may make falls more likely, and decreased bone mass may increase the danger of a fall-related fracture.
Nursing home residents who have Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, diabetes, tremors, a swallowing disorder or take certain medications may be especially susceptible to undernutrition or dehydration.
Both Pennsylvania state law and federal regulations hold nursing homes accountable for providing a reasonable level of care, including providing for the dietary needs of residents. Those with loved ones who may be showing signs of neglect should know that they may be able to pursue compensation needed to help cover the cost of medical complications and more.