In a special investigative series, The Detroit News uncovers what it calls a "lethal epidemic" of malnutrition and dehydration in U.S. nursing homes.
The series, titled "Starving for Care," reports that malnutrition and dehydration killed nearly 14,000 patients from 1999 to 2002. These are "victims of a silent and largely preventable epidemic caused by a breakdown in basic care," says the Michigan paper.
The investigators note that the problem often is hidden and blamed on staffing issues. Inattention has caused patients who cannot feed themselves to go without enough food and water or has allowed obvious, life-threatening problems to be overlooked. Many patients die because caregivers are too busy or inexperienced to give them the help they need.
Experts say families can help by visiting more often and choosing a nursing home carefully. The series offers advice on recognizing the signs of malnutrition and dehydration and ensuring the best care for a loved one.
In a related article, the News reports that the federal "report card" on the nation's nursing homes, Nursing Home Compare, now includes the percentage of patients who lost weight faster than doctors consider safe, an indicator that can suggest the prevalence of malnutrition. To access Nursing Home Compare, visit the Medicare Web site at www.medicare.gov
To read the Detroit News series, go to: http://www.detnews.com/2004/specialreport/0411/29/index.htm