Nursing Home Weight Loss

Unexpected Weight Loss in Nursing Home and Assisted Living Residents May Point Toward Possible Abuse and Neglect

In assisted living and nursing home care, unexplained weight loss may be a silent indicator of possible negligence and abuse. Various forms of nursing home neglect can contribute to residents losing weight unexpectedly and without an obvious cause. Families of vulnerable seniors facing this alarming scenario must proactively advocate for their loved ones’ well-being. Our team of Kansas City nursing home neglect attorneys can help explain your legal options to seek recourse and fight for accountability among the elder care community. 

Types of Nursing Home Neglect That May Result in Unexplained Weight Loss

Gradual fluctuations in weight over an extended period are a normal part of the aging process. Many health conditions can afflict adults as they get older, causing changes in weight over the long term. Sudden weight loss that is unexpected or unexplained, though, could be due to certain types of abuse and neglect in nursing homes

Seniors in assisted living facilities and under nursing home care may lose weight rapidly because:

  • They have an undiagnosed illness or medical condition like dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) that nursing home staff overlooked.
  • Medication changes can affect appetite, mood, digestion, and other factors that may lead to sudden weight loss. 
  • The resident may suffer from malnutrition due to improper diet provided by the nursing home. Poor quality meals could be a cost-cutting measure. 
  • Staff may fail to make necessary modifications to accommodate nursing home residents' specific needs, such as cutting food into smaller pieces to facilitate chewing and swallowing. 
  • Caregivers neglect to review the resident’s chart regularly to make needed adjustments to their diet and overall care plan. 
  • The nursing home is understaffed, so aides do not have the time and resources to care for residents properly.
  • Nursing home staff lack adequate training to help seniors with hand tremors, cognitive impairment, or other risk factors.
  • Undertrained staff may be unable to identify signs of malnutrition and other health concerns. 
  • High employee turnover may mean new hires are unfamiliar with individual resident needs.

MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine, defines significant unintentional weight loss as 10 pounds or 5% of normal body weight lost over six to 12 months. Seeing a resident who loses this much weight this quickly without a known reason is a cause for alarm. It may be a sign of nursing home neglect and warrants further investigation.

Notable Signs of Possible Nursing Home Neglect

Seniors in assistive living facilities and nursing homes often suffer from a range of chronic health conditions. It is reasonable to expect that they may experience challenges with their overall health and well-being, including weight management. Even so, notable nursing home abuse signs can raise red flags about the type and quality of care they are receiving. 

Along with sudden weight loss, other possible signs of nursing home neglect may include:

  • Increased hair loss, thinning hair, and other changes to hair and scalp
  • Changes in mood and emotional regulation, like irritability, depression, and anxiety
  • Increased incidence of bedsores, also called pressure ulcers and decubitus ulcers 
  • Complaining about chills or overheating despite no noticeable environmental changes
  • Signs of dehydration, like dry mouth, dry skin, or reduced urination
  • Chronic headaches, vertigo, or dizziness
  • Dental issues, like loose or rotting teeth, poorly-fitting dentures, and mouth sores
  • General fatigue and muscle weakness

While the nursing home may not be directly to blame for some of these symptoms, the nursing home and its staff still owe a duty of care to all its residents. Nursing aides have a responsibility to monitor the health of seniors under their care. They have a duty to monitor changes in weight and make adjustments to meal plans to accommodate. When you visit a loved one in an assisted living or nursing home setting, be mindful of changes in their physical and emotional state.

What to Do If You Notice Your Loved One Is Losing Weight

If your senior family member has had a sudden weight loss while under the care of a nursing home, resist the urge to jump to any conclusions. However, it is crucial to follow up and inquire about their health and care plan as soon as possible. Some steps you may want to take include:

  1. Ask your loved one about their experience at the nursing home and their interactions with staff members.
  2. Book a comprehensive medical exam. Your family doctor can assess your loved one’s overall health and identify areas of concern.
  3. Follow the treatment advice given by your family doctor and other medical specialists. Provide your loved one with the emergency medical care they need.
  4. Bring your concerns, observations, and suspicions of abuse or neglect to the nursing home administrator. 
  5. Report the nursing home abuse or neglect to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. 
  6. Hire a Kansas City nursing home neglect attorney to investigate your case and help protect your legal rights. You can discuss whether you can sue the nursing home for abuse or neglect. 
  7. Remove your loved one from the facility and select a different Missouri nursing home

Dealing with potential nursing home neglect is a delicate matter. Do not take it lightly. It’s best to proceed with the guidance of a Kansas City lawyer experienced in Missouri laws governing nursing home care. 

Why File a Nursing Home Neglect Claim

If you have reason to believe that your loved one is the victim of abuse or neglect, they may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the nursing home or other liable parties. This may involve filing a claim against the nursing home’s insurance provider. 

It’s important to take action quickly, as malnutrition can quickly lead to other health concerns and even death. Elderly individuals with sudden weight loss may suffer from cognitive decline, broken bones, poorer healing from bruises and infections, muscle wasting, and more. Like with other personal injury claims, the statute of limitations for filing a nursing home abuse claim in Missouri is five years. This begins at the time of discovery. 

A successful lawsuit can help hold the violating nursing home accountable for its negligent or intentional actions. This can help raise awareness of the issue and help prevent future incidents of nursing home abuse or neglect among the other residents. Possible damages you may recover in a nursing home neglect case may include current and future medical expenses, emotional distress, reduced quality of life, pain and suffering, and punitive damages.
Brian Wallace
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Kansas City Personal Injury Attorney