When you chose a nursing home for your aging parent, you probably felt that you did your due diligence and you were putting him or her in the best environment possible. You counted on the staff to provide your loved one with the care he or she needs in order to remain comfortable and possibly even thrive in the environment.
Of course, you probably didn't expect your parent to be running marathons thanks to the nursing home, but you probably didn't expect him or her to lose weight, look weak or otherwise appear malnourished. After all, food should not be a concern in today's society, especially for elderly individuals whose nutrition makes a difference in their overall health.
Do you suspect negligence or abuse?
Sadly, approximately 40 percent of nursing home residents suffer from malnutrition and/or dehydration. You can help determine whether your parent is within that percentage by asking the following questions:
- Do your parent's clothes look looser?
- Does your parent complain of being hungry or thirsty often?
- Does your parent appear disoriented or weak?
- Does your parent complain that his or her dentures no longer fit?
- Does your parent appear to experience dry mouth often?
- Does your parent appear to be losing weight?
- Does your parent have dry, cracked and pale lips?
- Does your parent's tongue appear bright red, furrowed or dry?
- Does your parent's hair appear thinner?
- Do wounds appear to heal more slowly?
- Does your parent eat more and better when you are around to assist?
- Does your parent have no access to healthy snacks and meals when desired?
- Does your parent fail to receive the foods of a medically ordered special diet?
- Does your parent seem to have lost interest in food?
- Does your parent have problems feeding him or herself?
These are just some of the indications that your parent may not be receiving adequate food or hydrating beverages. Perhaps your parent needs more help than he or she did previously due to an advancing illness, but no one has mentioned it to you. If you see these or other signs, you may want to talk to administrators right away to determine what the problem is. More than likely, someone should have notified you of these types of issues if neglect or abuse wasn't a factor.
The facility should be amenable to your questions and investigate the situation. The staff should devise a plan to make sure that your loved one receives the nutrition he or she needs and deserves. If you do not see improvement or encounter resistance to your concerns, you may need to go outside the nursing home for assistance. If necessary, you may need to involve authorities and file a civil suit against in order to obtain compensation on your parent's behalf.