Nursing Home Lawyer PA


Malnutrition in Nursing Homes

Malnutrition occurs when a nursing home resident does not receive adequate intake of food and nutrients. Rapid and unexpected weight loss by a resident in a nursing home may cause family members to wonder if the resident is suffering from neglect.

Malnutrition in nursing home resident is fairly commonplace. A study in Current Opinion and Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care documented that approximately 20% of nursing home residents demonstrate symptoms of malnutrition. 

Risk Factors for Malnutrition

Multiple factors can contribute to malnutrition in elderly nursing home residents receiving an adequate amount of protein, calories, vitamins, and liquids needed to maintain health. Physical causes of malnutrition may be due to illness related to the resident’s diagnoses, including kidney diseases, cardiac failure, and chronic lung disease. 

Residents with diagnoses of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may have a reduced ability to recognize their nutritional needs and feed themselves. 

Medications commonly prescribed to seniors can also cause stomach upset (nausea, diarrhea, vomiting) that lead to malnutrition. Some medications can also increase drowsiness and cause cognitive changes that impact the resident’s intake.

Nursing Home Problems Leading to Malnutrition

Lack of Dental Services


Wrong food or drink served

Failure to Use Supplements

Problems with a resident’s mouth and gums can cause malnutrition. Poorly fitted dentures, tooth loss, sores, and mouth pain can diminish a resident’s intake. Nursing homes are required to provide dental services to address dental issues, but many facilities fail to provide these services.

Nursing homes are frequently cited by surveyors for dining and nutritional failures. Understaffing can result in residents receiving inadequate assistance from staff during mealtime. In many nursing homes, staff attempt to feed multiple residents at once, or rush through feeding a resident in order to take care of others. Staff who are unfamiliar with special diets or feeding techniques may not provide the resident with the correct food that is individualized to their nutirtional needs. Nursing homes who serve cold or unappealing food can have a negative impact on a resident’s nutrition.

Some residents depend on liquid supplements to help them meet their dietary needs, and other residents depend on tube feedings for nutrition. When nursing staff fail to administer supplements or tube feedings per the physician’s order, malnutrition can result.


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Consequences of Malnutrition

Malnutrition can cause harmful health consequences in the infirm nursing home residents. These health effects include slower wound healing, frequent infections, muscle weakness, and a weakened immune system. Malnutrition increases a resident’s risk for both morbidity and mortality.

If you notice that your loved one has had recent unexpected weight loss, notify their physician as soon as possible and request and evaluation. You may also want to confer with a nursing home abuse and neglect attorney to help identify if your loved one’s malnutrition is due to failures of the nursing home. 

A nursing home abuse attorney can help identify if malnutrition is due to issues such as:

  • Understaffing that impacts the resident’s ability to be helped with feeding

  • Failure to monitor resident’s intake

  • Failure to provide food choices that meet the resident’s nutritional needs

Contact a nursing home attorney for free consultation