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When Is “Failure to Thrive” a Sign of Nursing Home Neglect?

If you have an elder loved one who simply “hasn’t been the same” since entering a nursing home, there could be many factors at play. The loss of independence and the increasing infirmity of old age can cause elders to feel despondent, at least while they are adjusting to their new surroundings. However, when you notice a marked decline in your loved one’s health and vitality, met with complacency by the facility’s caregivers, you may be observing “failure to thrive” brought on by nursing home neglect.

According to the National Institute on Aging, failure to thrive (FTT) among elders is a “syndrome of weight loss, decreased appetite and poor nutrition, and inactivity, often accompanied by dehydration, depressive symptoms, impaired immune function, and low cholesterol.”  Since FTT is most often a naturally occurring process of global decline, linked to increased physical frailty, cognitive decline and functional disability, too many nursing facilities are content to perform minimal maintenance for a resident, rather than taking proactive steps to address the elder’s needs.

Worse yet, neglect of an elder resident can bring on symptoms of FTT unnecessarily. A resident who needs minimal assistance to eat, drink, get to the bathroom, or get out of bed, can decline quickly when that assistance doesn’t come.

If you fear for the health and welfare of an elder loved one, you must advocate aggressively to ensure their needs are met. You must speak to those responsible for managing and administering care so that an appropriate program of care is in place and each staff member attending your elder knows what is expected. You must also visit the nursing home frequently, unannounced, and at different time of the day to observe and document how the staff treats your loved one.

If you are not satisfied with the facility’s response to your concerns, you should contact an elder law attorney who has experience with nursing home abuse and neglect cases. If the facility is in Pittsburgh or elsewhere in western Pennsylvania, Rudberg Law Offices, LLC can help.  Schedule a free consultation, by calling 412-488-6000 or contacting our Pittsburgh office online.

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