The term ‘sarcopenia‘ is used to describe the loss of muscle mass as a result of aging. Because sarcopenia progresses with age, it is very common in skilled nursing facilities. Studies that have been conducted on the treatment of sarcopenia generally focus primarily on nutrition. One recent survey titled “Effectiveness of Nutritional Supplementation on Muscle Mass Treatment of Sarcopenia in Old Age” reviews numerous such studies between 1991 and 2012. The review found that nutritional treatment of sarcopenia has been overall effective.
It is extremely important that you monitor your loved one’s nutrition, especially if he or she resides in a nursing home. In understaffed facilities, it is very common for patients to be neglected and become malnourished. For example, some residents may not receive the assistance with feeding that they require and will consequently experience severe weight loss. Proper nutrition can also help maintain skin integrity and prevent pressure ulcers. Patients who are at high risk of developing pressure ulcers should be given nutritional supplements, such as iron and protein.
Unfortunately, many nursing homes do not have your loved one’s best interest in mind and will not work to ensure that he or she does not lose significant muscle mass. This may lead to decreased mobility. Instead, nurses may use physical restraints for purposes of convenience. This, however, is a direct violation of the Patients’ Rights and has been proven to actually accelerate sarcopenia and a decrease in mobility. While caregivers frequently use the argument that physical restraints improve resident safety and helps to prevent falls, specialists assert that the risks and consequences associated with the use of restraints outweighs any benefits. Past studies have shown that the use of physical restraints does not decrease incidences of falls in nursing homes over the long run.
Instead of using restraints, nurses should ensure that residents are engaging in physical exercise. One type of exercise called resistance training, has been shown to effectively improve muscle strength. This therapy involves exercises that are performed against an opposing force. As the patient’s muscle strength improves, the opposing force increases. Resistance training has also been shown to improve overall mental well-being in the elderly. This current review actually concluded that nutritional treatment of sarcopenia is most effective when it is coupled with physical exercise.
As a patient, your loved one has a right to maintain his or her mobility and to be free of malnourishment. Our office maintains that it is the nursing home’s obligation to help preserve its residents’ independence in activities of daily living for as long as possible. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case in understaffed nursing homes. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi have extensive experience in litigating elder abuse cases, and we hope that you will allow us to help you with your case. If you believe that your loved one may be a victim of nursing home neglect, please contact us immediately.