Nursing Home Malnutrition and Dehydration Attorney

Representing clients and families in Cleveland, Columbus, Akron, Canton, and Throughout Ohio

When a loved one in a nursing home becomes malnourished or dehydrated, you should be very alarmed, as these serious conditions qualify as care home abuse and neglect.  Residents who are not getting enough calories or fluids can certainly lose weight, become confused, or become susceptible to infection. These conditions, if not recognized and treated by the nursing home staff and the resident’s doctor, can lead to life-threatening complications.

As a nursing home injury attorney for more than 30 years, I represent residents abused or neglected in nursing homes, including those who have suffered from malnutrition and dehydration.  If your loved one has suffered from injury due to either malnutrition or dehydration or has died as the result of nursing home negligence, I would invite you to call my firm and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

I and my firm accept nursing home injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis, and my firm advances the costs of litigation.  This means that you and your family will not need to pay any money while your case is ongoing.  Our firm only receives a fee if we are successful in securing compensation, and costs advanced (such as expert fees and filing costs) are normally paid back from a settlement or jury award.

Malnutrition and Dehydration Risk Factors

Before becoming a Ohio nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer, I was a nurse.  During my training and experience as a nurse, I know and have seen first-hand the signs of both malnutrition and dehydration. Both of these dangerous conditions can be brought upon by several factors including:

  • Recent illness
  • Emotional disorders such as depression
  • Cognitive impairments that make it difficult to finish a meal
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing food
  • Pain
  • Sensory impairments, especially loss of taste and smell that commonly occurs in aging
  • Side effects of medications, especially diuretics, commonly referred to as “water pills”

Are Nursing Homes Liable for Injuries or Death Due to Malnutrition or Dehydration?

In many cases, the answer is “yes.”

Nursing homes have full control over residents, including the food and liquids that they are served.  As a result, they should be aware at all times about the food and liquid intake of each resident.  If there are issues with the underconsumption of food or a resident not taking in sufficient liquids, the nursing home should not only realize that there is a problem, but also quickly take whatever actions are required in order to promptly address a resident’s health needs. Nursing homes have licensed dietitians on staff who should be working with the staff to monitor residents weight to identify issues before they become serious problems.

Understanding the Duties of Nursing Homes and Skilled Care Facilities

Federal regulations require facilities to conduct a comprehensive assessment of each resident upon admission and then periodically thereafter.[1] Specifically, these regulations require the nursing homes to “maintain acceptable parameters of nutritional status such as body weight and protein levels, unless the resident’s clinical condition demonstrates that this is not possible”.[2]

The State of Ohio also requires nursing homes to provide residents with adequate care and treatment.

Registered dieticians are part of the multidisciplinary team that assesses every resident. They pay attention to specific requirements for calorie and protein intake and make recommendations to the physician. Often, they order lab tests to assess the specifics of a resident’s nutritional and fluid status. If a resident is at risk for or already suffers from either dehydration or malnutrition, the nursing home is responsible for implementing a corrective plan.

How Does Malnutrition and Dehydration Occur in Nursing Homes?

One would think that it would be almost impossible for a resident to suffer from either malnutrition or dehydration in a nursing home.  After all, in most nursing homes, there is plenty of food for all residents as well as water and other liquids, and it is the job of staff to ensure that all of needs of residents are being met.

However, malnutrition and dehydration do frequently occur, of the result of:

  • Understaffing, poor training, and the failure to adequately monitor resident food consumption over time. The malnutrition risk factors noted above and other factors, such as the loss of a loved one, may lead to residents severely limiting their food intake, or not eating any food at all.  Nursing home staff should be carefully monitoring the food intake of residents, and understand that their failure to eat a sufficient amount of food over successive meals will be detrimental.  Instead, staff with insufficient training may attribute a resident’s failure to eat a meal as “the resident not being hungry that day,” instead of understanding that the resident may not have sufficiently eaten for several days prior to that meal.
  • Not providing the proper nutritional balance of food and liquids to a resident based upon their specific needs. Each resident will have specific nutritional needs based upon any illnesses that they may have, medicines that they are taking, and other factors. Nursing home nutritionists will normally ensure that each resident has a balanced diet based upon their particular nutritional needs.

When a family places a loved one into a nursing home, they naturally expect that a loved one’s nutritional needs will be fully met.  While a nursing home should be ensuring that the nutritional needs of residents are being met, and be on the lookout for the factors noted above and other matters which may cause a resident’s nutritional needs to change, families will want to also be on the lookout if it appears that their loved one’s needs are suffering so that they can advocate on behalf of their loved one when necessary.

It’s important to note, however, that while a family will naturally want to make sure that their loved one’s needs are being taken care of, it is always the primary role and obligation of the nursing home facility to ensure that all health care needs of residents are met. 

Some nursing homes will try to shift the burden onto family members, especially when something goes wrong.  This is especially the case for families who visit their loved one frequently.  For example, a nursing home may blame a family for not noticing health conditions of the resident, and ask the family why they did not inform staff if they could see the changes in their loved one.

When this occurs, what is really happening is that the nursing home is trying to make the family feel responsible.  They know that if the family feels guilty about not noticing signs of a new health problem of their loved one, the family will be less likely to blame (or sue) the facility.  Often, the nursing home may try to compound this guilt by implicating the family for placing their loved one in a nursing home in the first place.

As an Ohio nursing home malnutrition and dehydration lawyer and injury attorney, I help clients through these matters, and help them understand that it is not their fault when a nursing home abuses or neglects their loved ones – these matters are solely the fault of the nursing home.

Cases and Experience – How We Help

Nursing homes and care facilities must ensure that residents receive enough food and liquids to stay healthy. If you suspect that your family member may be suffering from malnutrition or dehydration, contact the facility administrator immediately, and give us a call for a free consultation. Please take action immediately before your loved one’s health declines.

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[1] (42 CFR 483.20).

[2] (see 42 CFR 483.25(i)).