Malnutrition is a Common Health Concern Affecting Residents of Nursing Homes

If your loved one resides in a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) or nursing home in Southern California, you should be mindful of the risks of malnutrition and related health problems.

A study was conducted with nursing home residents in Germany, described in the article titled Prevalence of Malnutrition in Orally and Tube-Fed Elderly Nursing Home Residents in Germany and Its Relation to Health Complaints and Dietary Intake, published in the 2011 volume of Gastroenterology Research and Practice. According to this study, malnutrition is widespread among nursing home residents and is related to serious health problems, such as constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Among the residents in the study, 26.7% suffered from malnutrition and 52.9% were at risk of malnutrition. Health problems were more prevalent among malnourished residents. For example, approximately 40% of well-nourished residents and 40% of residents at risk of malnutrition suffered from constipation. However, 55% of malnourished residents had constipation.

Furthermore, malnutrition was more prevalent among residents who received nutrition through feeding tubes, versus those who received nutrition orally. Residents fed through feeding tubes experienced constipation, nausea, and vomiting more frequently than those who received their nutrition orally. Tube-fed residents were more often dependent on others for care, immobile, severely demented, and in poorer health than residents with oral nutrition. Thus, tube-fed residents require more monitoring from the nursing staff.

The study also demonstrated that tube-feeding can help in the maintenance or achievement of a normal body mass index. However, tube-feeding is not sufficient in improving muscle mass and function; calf circumference was significantly smaller, especially in tube-fed residents than orally nourished residents. Physical activity, in addition to proper nutrition, is needed for the maintenance of muscle function.

The most common health complaint among the nursing home residents in the study was constipation, which almost half of the residents experienced. The authors of the article speculate that age-related changes in gastrointestinal function, such as weakening of the muscles inside the colon, as well as the taking of many medications and decreased fiber intake, are the reasons for the prevalence of constipation.

All other health problems, such as nausea and vomiting, were less common; however, when these problems occurred, they were significantly related to malnutrition and occurred more in tube-fed residents. Pressure ulcers occurred even less frequently, indicating a high quality of care dedicated to prevention. When they did occur, tube-fed residents tended to be affected. Pressure ulcers were closely related to malnutrition.

It is important for relatives to follow up with the staff of a skilled nursing facility in order to ensure that their loved ones are receiving the nutrition they need. Specifically, if your loved one is receiving nutrition through a feeding tube, more monitoring is needed to ensure that your loved one does not experience any health problems. Following up with the nursing staff regarding the risk of malnutrition will ensure that the staff is mindful of the needs of your loved one and is acting in your loved one’s best interests.

If your loved one has suffered from malnutrition or other injuries because a nursing home in Anaheim, Santa Ana, Fullerton, Brea, or La Habra did not keep track of the nutrition received by your loved one, please contact us today to see how we can help your loved one obtain the care he or she deserves.