Marked weight loss can indicate a number of problems, including nursing home abuse. Weight loss may reflect a change in medications or in the way medications are being metabolized, illness, depression, anxiety, or neglect if a nursing home fails to provide adequate nutrition and hydration. Weight loss and dehydration are key signs to watch for to ensure that your loved one is being cared for properly, that underlying disease is not going untreated, and that nursing home abuse is not a factor.
Leading causes of such weight loss in nursing home patients are depression, cancer (lung cancer and gastrointestinal malignancies), cardiac disease, and gastrointestinal disease. Reducing, increasing, or adding medications may also cause nausea, vomiting, or increased anxiety that may lead to weight loss.
Weight loss may also stem from food-related illness. Poor nutrition and extended time in bed may result in muscle wasting, decreased immunocompetence, depression, and an increased rate of infection and complications, including bedsores. A loss of 5-10 percent of body weight in the preceding one to 12 months should not be considered a normal part of the aging process.
If you have noticed a loved one’s sudden or significant weight loss and nursing home abuse could be the cause, do not delay in initiating action. Unintentional weight loss in nursing home patients has been linked to increased morbidity and mortality.
A reasonable work-up, including tests dictated by the patient’s history and physical examination, should be started immediately, as well as investigating nursing home conditions to rule out nursing home abuse and neglect.