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Can Malnutrition Be Considered Elder Abuse Or Neglect?

Malnutrition, or the lack of a diet rich in vitamins, proteins and minerals, can be extremely detrimental to elderly people. Without careful monitoring of both nutritional quality and quantity, it is easy for a person in a care setting to become malnourished. The condition can be caused by several factors, including other medical conditions or treatments, the inability to process food correctly, difficulty swallowing and even ill-fitting dentures.

As a result, injuries can take longer to heal, there are more risks during surgery and hospital stays become longer and more expensive. Like dehydration, malnutrition can contribute to the development of other, more serious medical problems such as bedsores, weakness, anemia, weakened immune system and, if left untreated can lead to death.

Statistics suggest that upward of two in five elderly adults in nursing homes are malnourished. There are several factors to determine if someone is at risk for becoming malnourished, including depression, isolation, cognitive decline, advanced age (80 plus), poor dental health and difficulty chewing or swallowing, among others.

Unfortunately, nursing home negligence can also be a cause of malnutrition if the facility is understaffed, if the staff is not properly educated as to the signs and treatments of the condition or if the staff fails to recognize and monitor a resident who is at high risk for malnutrition.

If you have concerns about the diet and nutrition of a loved one in a care setting, voice your concerns to the staff, visit at mealtimes to help administer nutritious foods and ensure that you are watching out for the resident’s well-being.

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