Nothing is more basic to human needs than food and water. Why, then, do our elderly loved ones die in nursing homes from lack of malnutrition and dehydration?
We feed our babies, we feed our pets, we feed ourselves.
But many elderly residents in nursing homes or assisted living facilities are not being properly fed every day.
Malnutrition and Dehydration in Nursing Homes - Similar to Impoverished Third-World Countries
According to a 2000 report, "Malnutrition and Dehydration Plague Nursing Home Residents," S. G. Burger, J. Kayser-Jones, J.P. Bell, at least one-third of the 1.6 million residents living in nursing homes in the United States may suffer from malnutrition and dehydration, conditions that are comparable to those in impoverished third-world countries.
The study blames a lack of adequately trained staff for the problem, a problem that could be fixed "by increasing the number of overall staff and trained professional nurses at nursing homes so they can be sure residents are getting enough to eat and drink," according to Sarah Greene Burger, executive director of the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform and lead author of the study.
Nursing home residents may be especially vulnerable to malnutrition and dehydration if they suffer from ailments that make them dependent on their caregivers for food, water, and sustenance. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, and other federal laws that followed it, require nursing homes to assess the nutritional status of residents upon admission and regularly thereafter so that the nutritional needs of their residents can be met. Despite this, an alarming number of nursing-home residents are malnourished.
What Causes Malnutrition and Dehydrationn in Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities?
Malnutrition and dehydration in nursing home and assisted living facilities can be caused by:
- 1. Inadequate staffing. One certified nursing assistant (CNA) may have responsibility for up to nine residents during daytime meals and as many as twelve to fifteen during the evening meal.
- 2. Lack of individualized care. A resident may need extra assistance in feeding herself-assistance that she is not getting.
- 3. Residents who feel rushed during meal time may not eat as much as they need.
- 4. Overworked and poorly trained staff may not properly and accurately chart what the resident eats and drinks.
- 5. High nurse-aide turnover-estimated to be 93 percent annually-that leads to inconsistent care.
- 6. Depression and cognitive impairment among elderly residents, leading to a lack of interest in eating.
- 7. A limited choice in the food offered to residents, whose food preferences are frequently ignored.
The Real Cause of Malnutrition and Dehydration in Nursing Homes? THE STAFF
Poorly trained or MIA staff is the biggest cause of our elderly loved ones in nursing homes being malnourished.
How hard can it be to make sure that a resident gets enough to eat? When the nursing home or assisted-living facility is understaffed, a staff person may be assigned to distribute trays of food for every meal; but are there enough staff to help the resident reach her food and lift her spoon or glass? Putting a tray of food on the table and walking out of the room is not enough. When the tray is picked up an hour or so later, nothing is said to the patient about why she did not eat her lunch. "You weren't hungry today, dear?" is not the same as taking care of the resident.
How Can You Tell If Your Loved One in a Nursing Home is Getting Enough to Eat or Drink?
Signs of malnutrition and dehydration to look for:
- Weight loss
- Pressure sores
- Pneumonia and infections
Here's What the President of the Health Care Association of Michigan Said About Malnutrition and Dehydration in Nursing Homes.
By the way, would you like to know what an executive in the nursing-home industry had to say about malnutrition and dehydration and the deaths they cause? The industry's position is that they are almost always natural progressions of the chronic diseases that put patients in nursing homes in the first place. According to Reginald Carter, the President of the Health Care Association of Michigan (which represents 400 nursing homes), "This is an active state of dying and not necessarily something people should be alarmed with." Now, that's alarming.