When you think of elder abuse, you may imagine physical abuse, such as hitting, kicking, slapping, or shoving. However, the truth is that elder abuse can happen in many forms. One that is not often talked about is malnutrition.
Malnutrition occurs when the body receives too little protein, calories, or other nutrients. This lack of nutrition leads to adverse effects on a person’s body, making it harder for the organs and other parts of the body to properly function.
Malnutrition is a more prevalent issue than you may think. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 50% of elderly adults are malnourished or at risk of becoming malnourished. This is especially true in nursing homes, where neglect is common. Elderly adults are at a higher risk for malnutrition because as they get older, they are more likely to experience a wide variety of changes to their bodies as well as their lifestyles. They are likely to suffer from physical, cognitive, and psychological declines. On top of that. social and economic changes that can impact the amount and types of foods they can buy.
These factors can all lead to malnutrition, which is a significant health issue for seniors. When malnutrition is not treated early, it can lead to poor outcomes such as muscle loss, frailty, an increase in falls, and chronic illness. Read on to learn more about how malnutrition manifests in the elderly and what you can do to protect your loved ones.
Causes and Symptoms of Malnutrition
Malnutrition is more common among the elderly due to several main reasons:
Reduced physical mobility
Reduced cognitive function
Hunger and food insecurity
Even if an elderly person is not experiencing any of the above issues, their ability to eat nutritious meals can be affected by factors associated with aging, such as loss of appetite, dental pain, taking medications, diminished smell or taste, and a reduced ability to chew or swallow.
Malnutrition among the elderly can have both short-term and long-term effects on their quality of life. Malnutrition can affect a person in many ways, including physically, mentally, and emotionally. In severe cases, it can even result in death.
Is your loved one suffering from malnutrition? Here are some signs to look for:
Loss of appetite
Fluid retention or swelling
Identifying Malnutrition Caused By Abuse or Neglect
If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from malnutrition, you should have a conversation with your loved one about their diet. What do they eat on a daily basis? How many calories are they consuming? For women, 1,600 calories per day should be sufficient unless they are active. If so, then shoot for 2,000 calories. For elderly men, 2,000 to 2,600 calories per day is optimal.
If your loved one is in a nursing home, ask the supervisor about the diet your loved one is receiving daily. Does the diet seem optimal based on your loved one’s nutritional requirements? Is there a nutritionist on staff that assists with meal plans?
If your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, schedule an appointment with a doctor to get a better idea of whether or not your loved one is suffering from malnutrition and how to treat it. Come prepared with questions. Be sure to ask about how to increase appetite and what foods the person should be eating. If your loved one is on medications, could those be suppressing the appetite? Are supplements needed?
Also, ask the doctor to perform a thorough assessment to see what medical problems the senior may be having that could be contributing to the malnutrition. Is abuse or neglect from a nursing home the possible cause? Sometimes loneliness, anxiety, and depression could cause appetite issues. It may be necessary to work with a therapist and a nutritionist to get your loved one back on track with their health. Ask the doctor for referrals.
If it can be confirmed that your loved one’s malnutrition is due to abuse or neglect, you should consider taking legal action. Contact a skilled personal injury lawyer to assess your case and determine your legal options. You may be able to file a lawsuit against the nursing home or other liable party.
In the meantime, if you believe the nursing home is to blame for your family member’s health issues, you should remove them from the nursing home promptly and focus on improving nutrition.
A good diet for older adults should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and foods rich in calcium.
Increase the caloric density of meals. Caloric density refers to the number of calories available in a food. A good way to increase caloric density is to add condiments and other extras when possible. You can accomplish this by preparing foods with olive oil or butter to add calories. You can also top foods with dried fruit, chopped nuts, cheese, mayonnaise, or avocado to add extra calories.
Increase eating frequency. Focus on multiple small meals throughout the day rather than larger meals to avoid feeling overly full.
Add liquid calories. It is easier for many older people to drink fluids than eat. Liquid calories are typically well-tolerated and can also help prevent dehydration. Fluids such as whole milk, milkshakes, and smoothies can add hundreds of calories. Provide these higher-calorie beverages between meals to increase calories.
Contact Newman Law Group Today
Malnutrition can be prevented, controlled, or treated in older adults, but the warning signs are often ignored. By knowing what to look for, you can protect your loved ones and keep them healthy as they age.
If your loved one has been neglected or abused in any way, contact Newman Law Group, LLP. We have more than 30 years of experience fighting injustice through caring counsel and aggressive representation. To schedule a consultation with our office, call (916) 352-3230 or fill out the online form.