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What could cause malnutrition in a nursing home?

One type of neglect that is, sadly, too common in Illinois nursing homes, including those in the greater Chicago area, occurs when the nursing home’s patients are malnourished or dehydrated. While it is never excusable for a nursing home patient to suffer from malnutrition or dehydration, it is also rarely the intent of a nursing home employee to starve one of their patients or deprive them of the water. As such, the question becomes, what exactly leads to a patient getting seriously ill or dying because of malnutrition?

Often, malnutrition happens because staff members do not pay attention, or they are unable to do so because of a heavy workload. Miscommunications or improper training are also reasons.

For example, staff may fail to notice that a patient cannot eat, either because they cannot swallow or maneuver the food into their mouth. Patients not getting enough activity can also cause a loss of appetite, as cannot not putting the patient in the right position to eat or serving food that is cold, too hot or just tasteless. In some cases, malnutrition or dehydration can be as simple as not putting water close enough to the patient’s bed.

Malnutrition can also be because of a medical or mental health condition that goes unnoticed. Serious medical issues, like heart failure, and even a patient’s own medications can make it hard for a patient to eat or drink. A patient who is suffering from depression may choose not to eat meals. Nevertheless, nursing home staff have an obligation to observe these conditions and seek out assistance, if necessary.

No matter the reason, Illinois nursing homes have an obligation to prevent malnutrition and dehydration among their patients. It would be unacceptable to allow a child in one’s care or other person not to get enough food. It is equally unacceptable when the victim is an aging or ill person, and nursing homes that allow such things to happen should be held accountable.


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