If you have an elderly loved one residing in a nursing home, you assume that they will automatically have vital basics like medicine, regular bathing and adequate nutrition. But that assumption may be wrong when it comes to eating properly. Research has indicated that forty percent of those in nursing homes suffer from malnutrition.
Someone in a facility like a nursing home could be poorly nourished for various reasons. Some residents may have physical problems that interfere with getting appropriate nutrition. Their dentures can hinder chewing. Some medicines decrease appetite. Feeding themselves may be hard or impossible due to conditions like dementia. They may have emotional difficulties like depression, so they shun food. There could also be insufficient assistance from the staff for people who need help cutting their food or opening beverage cartons.
Indications of malnutrition
When you visit your loved one, look for these concerning issues:
- Being confused
- Unusual thirst
- Clothing that seems baggy
- Unintentional, conspicuous weight loss
- Extremely dry mouth
They may or may not tell you about any problems themself.
What responsibility does the nursing home have?
A federal law – the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 – mandates that nursing homes must evaluate a resident’s condition regarding nutrition when they first move in and at three-month intervals. The facility is obligated to serve them flavorful, nutritious food at the correct temperature. Suitable alternatives must be available if someone turns down a meal.
What can you do to help?
The chances are your loved one may not be able to advocate for themselves. You, however, can pitch in constructively by having a discussion with a representative of the nursing home, asking for a planning conference to ensure that there is a schedule for the person’s meals and fluids and checking to see if the problems improve. You can also contact the Illinois Department on Aging or a professional who knows this subject well and can point you in the right direction.