Unexplained Weight Loss

DATELINE LONG BEACH, NY  "A feeding tube? You've got to be kidding! Dad loves to eat."

Melody Ashford was on the phone with her sister, Emily.

"Except for football, I don't think there's anything Dad loved more than food," Emily agreed.

"This is why I think something is seriously wrong over there at the nursing home. The doctor at the nursing home wants to give Dad a feeding tube."

"How did Dad look when you visited him at the nursing home?" The question was an obvious one.

"Well, it was confusing. The staff told me that he wasn't eating. And looked much thinner, even gaunt, compared to my last visit. But when I sat with him, he seemed plenty hungry. In fact, when I helped him eat he finished almost everything on his tray.  A feeding tube for Dad was the furthest thing from my mind at that moment. He just needs some assistance eating."

"Did Dad say anything to you?"

"'I hate to bother them.' And 'One time I spilled some potatoes on the sheets and they got really mad.'  Things like that."

"We've got to do something," Melody said. "The staff is supposed to help him eat."


What happened to Melody and Emily’s Dad in the nursing home is not uncommon. Nursing home abuse often manifests itself due to improper and inadequate nursing home staffing. Nursing home staff is responsible to monitor residents’ food intake and to make sure any weight loss is addressed in a timely manner. It is a violation of nursing home resident rights if the staffing in the nursing home is untrained or unable to give each resident the care they require. Residents who need assistance eating or to complete their meals must be given that assistance.

If a feeding tube is recommended for your loved one it may be because the nursing home does not have enough staff to help the residents eat. This situation requires investigation, a study of medical records, and plenty of question-asking. A nursing home should be a safe place for patients, but sadly patients’ families are told they need a feeding tube when it is unnecessary. Often it is due to short staffing in the nursing home.

If your loved one has been recommended to receive a feeding tube or suffered an injury or death while under the care of a nursing home, you and your loved one may have legal recourse.

If a feeding tube is recommended for your loved one, make sure it is absolutely necessary. Does your loved one eat when you visit and assist him or her with their meals? Do they eat better if you bring them food from home? Ask questions. What caused the change that requires a feeding tube? Is the nursing home staff assisting with meals? For Melody and Emily’s Dad, the nursing home staff was inadequate to provide the required care.

Instead of hiring more staff, nursing homes sometimes recommend feeding tubes as a ”replacement” to having people who help residents eat. And if it has, your loved one deserves a day in court.

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