If your elderly parent is a Virginia nursing home resident and seems to be inexplicably losing weight or is getting weak, it is possible your parent might not be eating enough. It is the duty of a nursing home to make sure its residents are properly nourished. If a nursing home is failing to help its residents eat proper meals, it is engaging in neglect and could be held liable.

Aging Care describes a number of reasons that can affect a senior’s ability to eat that have nothing to do with neglect. Some seniors cannot chew well if they lack teeth or have dentures that do not fit correctly. As people age, they also lose some ability to see or smell, which diminishes a person’s ability to sense food and build up anticipation to eat. Appetite can also be diminished by illness or medication.

However, sometimes a loss of appetite can be directly due to neglect or abuse on the part of a nursing home. Depression, for example, can result in a lack of appetite. Sometimes depression can be caused by other factors, such as lack of socialization, but in some instances, a person may suffer depression due to mistreatment from a caregiver, which in turn makes the person less likely to eat.

There are also many elderly who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia. A nursing home should make special provisions to ensure a dementia sufferer is properly nourished. Sometimes too much noise can distract a dementia patient from eating. The food may also not be appealing. Food that is brightly colored or food that is served on a brightly colored plate may help induce someone with dementia to eat.

Some seniors lack the ability to feed themselves. Whether due to a stroke, arthritis, or some other health condition, a senior may not be able to lift a hand to put food in his or her mouth. These seniors require direct assistance so they can feed themselves. So if a senior is malnourished, the nursing home might not be helping the senior eat.

Establishing the root cause of your relative’s malnutrition is critical. You want to make sure your loved one’s health is not in danger, and if the nursing home is the direct cause of your relative’s lack of eating, you should take corrective steps to protect your loved one from further neglect or abuse. You may even need to consult with a professional nursing home neglect attorney for assistance.

Since nursing home neglect can happen in many different ways, do not consider this article as legal counsel for your situation. It is written only to provide you with general information on this topic.