With everything that’s been going on, you haven’t been able to lay eyes on your Dad as regularly as you’d like – but you thought he was being cared for pretty well in the nursing home.
Now that you’ve finally been able to make the trip to see him in person, however, you’re quite concerned. Your father seems suddenly thinner and frailer than ever, and the decline in his health seems startling. The nursing staff reassures you that you’re just seeing the normal consequences of aging, so there’s no cause for alarm.
You’re not so certain. Should you be worried? Quite possibly. Here’s what you want to keep in mind:
Malnutrition in seniors comes from many causes
It is possible that your parent’s weight loss is just related to age. Seniors tend to suffer from a variety of conditions that affect their appetite, including gastrointestinal problems, difficulty swallowing and dementia (which can affect their ability to recognize hunger pangs).
However, it’s also possible that your senior loved one isn’t receiving enough food. If, for example, your father does have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it’s the nursing staff’s job to make sure that he’s eating. They’re supposed to track and document how much he eats at each meal and take steps to prevent him from suffering from malnutrition.
Similarly, there could be mechanical issues involved. If your father has Parkinson’s Disease or some kind of essential tremor, for example, he may not be able to feed himself very easily. With nursing facilities often running on a razor-thin staff, the facility may simply not be providing the level of care that he needs.
There are numerous physical signs that can show you if your loved one is suffering from malnutrition. Aside from weight loss, you should look for things like:
- Dry, cracked skin
- Thinning hair
- Disorientation and confusion
- Poor wound healing
- Loss of appetite
- Mental changes, including confusion
- Weakness and fatigue
You don’t have to accept the nursing home’s word for it that your parent is receiving all the nutrition they need. Ask for a meeting and have them show you the records regarding meals or ask for an evaluation by an outside nutritionist.
If you’re worried about the potential of nursing home neglect here in Chicago, it may be time to get some experienced legal guidance. You have rights – and so does the senior you love.