Malnutrition a Concern in Chicago Nursing Homes

Malnutrition is not a sign of normal aging. plates.jpg

Our body may not move the way it once did. We may become frailer, less agile. We may even start to shrink a little in stature. Our mind may not be as whip-sharp as it once was.

But we shouldn’t be starving.

That, our Chicago nursing home lawyers know, is the result of poor or negligent care. Nursing homes are unfortunately notorious for providing poor or improper nutrition to patients – with sometimes deadly consequences.

Each nursing home resident, before they are admitted, should have a thorough evaluation of his or her nutrition needs. A plan should be tailored specifically to meet those needs.

This will include allergies, of course, and hopefully preferences. But it should also include how much they need to eat on a daily basis, as well as their ability to consume.

For example, a 180-pound man will need more nutrition than a 90-pound woman.

Also, if someone doesn’t have their teeth, they probably can’t eat corn on the cob. Many nursing home residents and long-term care patients require diets designed so they don’t choke. Often, this means having food that is mashed or pureed. Some have to be monitored closely throughout the entire meal, and others have to be fed through a tube.

However, it is far too often the case that nursing homes do not heed these instructions, usually because of carelessness or lack of proper training or not having enough staff on hand to ensure nutrition plans are carried out.

This has resulted in tragedies throughout the country.

In Connecticut, for example, three nursing home residents choked to death in as many months because they were fed solid foods (ranging from meatballs to marshmallows) when their diets had been restricted for various reasons.

Additionally, nutrition plans need to be updated and reviewed on a regular basis. As people age, needs change. What was fine two years ago may no longer be adequate – or safe.

It’s been more than a decade since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began sending out packets of information to nursing homes, aimed at training caregivers to spot malnutrition – and how to address it. When a facility is trusted with the care of someone, there is no excuse for not providing care as basic as meeting a patient’s nutritional needs.

In rare cases, malnutrition may be a malicious act. In Oregon, for example, two employees were recently charged in the death of a patient who died of malnutrition. They’ve been charged with criminal mistreatment and criminally negligent homicide.

Nursing homes have a responsibility to:

–Serve nutritious foods that the patient like and which are within his or her religious or cultural preferences;

–Serve foods that taste good and are prepared to a proper temperature;

–Ensure that food items have been safely prepared;

–Serve meals in a timely manner and provide prompt and courteous help with eating;

–Provide eating utensils that are specifically designed to meet a patient’s special needs;

–Provide another equally nutritious food if you don’t like what is offered.

Contact Abels & Annes for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 855-LAW-CHICAGO.

Additional Resources:

Nutrition and Hydration Awareness: Nutrition Care Alerts, Medicare.gov

More Blog Entries:
What are Medical Errors? June 22, 2012, Chicago Nursing Home Lawyer Blog