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Weight Loss: A Sign of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

August 12, 2022
Author: Martin J. Solomon
elderly woman looking off-camera

There are many ways that abuse and neglect in a nursing home can take a toll on a person’s health and body. One particularly worrying issue that may emerge in a nursing home resident is sudden and unexpected weight loss, which can signify abuse or neglect.

But how can families make sure to spot, document, and act on the problem?

Why is a loved one suffering weight loss?

Many potential causes of weight loss among elderly persons in nursing homes exist. Gradual weight loss can be part of a person’s natural aging process. Some people lose weight as they grow older due to changes in appetite or metabolism, a normal process that takes place over many months or years.

However, if a person loses weight abruptly over a few months or less without an explanation, there’s a higher chance the change isn’t a part of the natural aging process. Reasons could include:

If the above is the cause of an elderly person’s weight loss, competent nursing staff should be able to observe and respond to it. But if an elderly person’s nursing staff  is not responding to abrupt weight loss, there’s a significant risk the patient suffers from nursing home abuse or neglect.

How neglect and abuse can cause weight loss

It’s the job of nursing teams to spot and respond to any major changes in an elderly person’s health. If they don’t do so, that is a case of neglect. When observing marked weight loss in a loved one, families and friends should check with nursing staff to see whether they have spotted the change and taken any action. If they have not, there could be a risk of them neglecting to act on a problem related to the loved one’s health.

Unfortunately, there are also cases where nursing home abuse or neglect can cause weight loss in an elderly person.

These include:

A loved one’s weight loss is due to abuse or neglect; what now?

If a family feels a nursing home has caused a loved one’s weight to drop due to abuse or neglect, they should move immediately to intervene.

First, families should speak with their loved one. Have they expressed any concerns that aroused suspicion in their quality of care before they started losing weight? If so, and if they claim they’re a victim of abuse or neglect, families should respond immediately.

If an elderly person cannot communicate effectively, families need to gather information from non-verbal sources. Are they exhibiting any emotional or behavioral changes, such as seeming tired, upset, or distant? If so, abuse or neglect could be at play.

A family’s next step should be to seek immediate and effective medical attention via a physician outside of a nursing home. This should help families identify whether the weight loss is due to medical issues like an infection, underlying condition, or medication, or if the weight loss is due to malnutrition from abuse or neglect.

Finding legal support for weight loss from nursing home abuse or neglect

If a family thinks their loved one has lost weight due to nursing home abuse or neglect, they should ensure the nursing home is held accountable after seeking medical attention.

Based in Phoenix, Solomon & Relihan has represented personal injury victims since 1974, with the practice limited to nursing home and assisted living abuse and neglect cases. Solomon & Relihan can advise families on what the federal and state laws in this practice area cover, and how they can respond to their loved one’s case of abuse or neglect in a nursing home.

Contact Solomon & Relihan now for a consultation to find out more and discuss the quality of care of a loved one in a nursing home.

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