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Are your parents eating well at the nursing home?

When you think of potential abuses in nursing homes, scenarios that jump to mind might include forgetting to turn over a patient who is in bed or not paying attention to cords on the floor. Thus, residents might trip and break their bones.

However, malnutrition and dehydration are serious threats as well. What makes them even more dangerous is that they can slip through the cracks in all manner of nursing homes.

Understaffed nursing homes

Errors that occur in understaffed nursing homes can come down to un-communicated messages and a lack of time. For example, Nurse A forgets to tell Nurse B he did not have time to give medication to residents in a certain wing. The same thing can happen with food; perhaps Nurse A did not have time to ensure that all 30 residents ate sufficient portions.

Lack of appetizing food

Many nursing homes are not known for their delicious and mouthwatering dishes. In fact, residents may feel like they are back in their school cafeterias with “mystery meat” and limp vegetables. Fortunately, some nursing homes are beginning to pay more attention to presentation.


Even residents who are relatively independent and mentally sound and live in high-end nursing homes can suffer from malnutrition and dehydration. For example, suppose that dentures prevent them from chewing their food sufficiently, but they are too embarrassed to admit that to staff members.

If this scenario describes your parents, they might just decide that one or two meals here and there are not that big of a deal. However, it can all add up, especially if your parents have the typical aging-related loss of appetite as well. If they are on medications, their medicine might also interfere with their ability to fully enjoy the flavors of food.


The signs of malnutrition and dehydration include sunken eyes, dry skin and abrupt weight loss. Some are easy to overlook or confuse with symptoms of other conditions. However, the consequences can be severe, with organ failure and death among them.