Malnutrition is the result of intaking either too few or too much nutrients to maintain basic levels of health.  Nursing homes are obligated to provide their residents with a diet that meets each individual resident’s nutritional needs. Malnutrition can be caused by an unbalanced diet, a lack of specific nutrients, or failure to ensure the resident is intaking a sufficient amount of calories. Some medications and medical disorders interfere with how the body processes nutrients.  Nursing homes should be aware of any specific nutritional needs a resident may have.  Malnutrition in nursing home residents can have immediate and long-term devastating effects on elderly people. Some symptoms of malnutrition include weight loss, weakness, fatigue, dental deterioration, yellowing skin, whitening of fingernails, and the development of pressure ulcers. 

Not only does malnutrition affect physical health, but it can affect emotional and mental health as well. Malnutrition can cause mental issues like depression. Long-term effects of depression can result in further malnutrition and an unwillingness to participate in physical activities which leads to muscle deterioration.  Malnutrition can have long-term effects on quality of life, proper organ function and can even result in death.

Dehydration entails the loss of fluids in the body.  Water needs to be constantly replenished in the body in order for it to be able to work at full capacity. If more fluid is being released through the cells than the amount that a person takes in, dehydration occurs.  Dehydration disrupts normal body functions. The elderly are especially susceptible to dehydration and it may cause other health concerns, which can be fatal. Proper water intake is vital for the health of the elderly and nursing homes need to be aware of this and plan to care for their residents accordingly to avoid dehydration.  Early signs of dehydration include nagging thirst, sporadic urination, dry mouth, canker sores, and changes in skin condition. Left unresolved, dehydration may display through disorientation, increased irritability, low blood pressure, panting or accelerated breathing, hallucinations, or delirium. If measures are not taken to rehydrate and to continue the replenishment of fluids, elderly residents might experience further complications that could have been easily avoided.

Nursing homes have a duty to provide adequate nutrition and fluid intake to their residents.  They have a duty to monitor their residents to ensure their nutrition and hydration needs are met.  If your loved one has suffered injury resulting from malnutrition or dehydration while a resident at a nursing home, the attorneys at Dworken and Bernstein will work diligently to hold the facility responsible and accountable.  

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