Recognizing the Signs of Dehydration in Nursing Homes

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When an aging loved one begins to need around-the-clock care, family members look for the best possible nursing home within the family’s budget with the expectation that the caregivers will treat the elderly family member with the care, compassion, and dignity that they deserve. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. The World Health Organization (WHO) calls nursing home abuse and neglect “an important public health problem.” A review of 52 studies showed that one out of every six senior citizens over age 60 suffered abuse in the last year.

Neglect is a form of nursing home abuse, especially neglect of the basic necessities, such as food and water. Dehydration is the most frequently occurring form of elder abuse in nursing homes. One study showed nearly all residents in the 40 nursing homes included in the study suffered from inadequate hydration.

What Are the Signs of Dehydration in the Elderly?

The body needs proper hydration for all bodily systems to function properly. The elderly population is more likely to experience the ill effects of dehydration, yet nursing home facilities frequently allow their residents to go without adequate fluid intake, in some cases to the point of serious injury or death. Unfortunately, elderly patients with cognitive dysfunction may not be able to adequately express to staff or visiting family members that they are thirsty or feeling unwell.

If you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home or long-term care facility, it’s important to recognize the signs of dehydration.

Signs of dehydration are easy to miss in elderly patients because they mimic some of the natural signs of aging including:

  • Dry mouth and lips
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • light-headedness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty with balance/walking
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen feet
  • Loss of appetite or cravings for sweets
  • Dark urine

When dehydration becomes severe, an elderly person may have a sunken appearance around their eyes and the skin may draw back from around the mouth. They may develop low blood pressure, slurred speech, and delirium. While mild dehydration is treatable by pushing fluids, late-stage dehydration in the elderly requires emergency medical care. Seizures, coma, and death occur in elderly patients with unaddressed late-stage dehydration.

What Are the Effects of Dehydration in Nursing Home Residents?

When a nursing home resident lives in a constant state of dehydration, they often experience other health complications related to dehydration, such as urinary tract and bladder infections. Kidney infections, kidney stones, and kidney failure. In some cases, nursing home caregivers may notice the dehydration and push fluids too fast on a resident with late-stage dehydration. When a dehydrated brain absorbs water too fast it can result in brain damage. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency requiring hospitalization.

Why Is Dehydration Common in Nursing Home Residents?

Understaffing and overworked caregivers in nursing homes are the most common reasons for dehydration in elderly residents. A lack of qualified caregivers means residents aren’t offered enough fluids, lack proper monitoring to make certain they drink the fluids offered to them at meals or aren’t available to assist an immobile resident in getting water or a beverage. Nursing home administrators have a duty to ensure that their residents receive proper care, including adequate fluid intake. When they breach this duty, it’s an act of negligence that results in serious harm or death.

Contact Gray & White Law

If you suspect your elderly loved one is experiencing dehydration or neglect in a nursing home, don’t hesitate to seek legal assistance. Contact a trusted Louisville nursing home abuse attorney at Gray & White Law. Our experienced team understands the complexities of nursing home abuse cases and is dedicated to fighting for the rights of elderly residents. Let us help you pursue justice and hold negligent facilities accountable. Schedule a consultation today to discuss your case and explore your legal options.