As we age, it becomes more difficult for our bodies to retain water, which can lead to an increased risk of dehydration. Dehydration is more than just being thirsty. In fact, if you feel thirsty, you already are dehydrated.
For most people, mild dehydration can be treated by drinking more water, but in the elderly, dehydration can be serious and lead to severe health complications.
Older adults who live in nursing homes are even more at risk for dehydration than seniors who live at home. At a nursing home, the staff is responsible for ensuring the health of the people in their care, including meeting their nutritional needs. Failure to monitor and measure a resident’s water consumption can cause dehydration, which can result in health problems.
Dehydration and Nursing Home Residents
If your loved one lives in a nursing home and suffered from dehydration, it could be a sign that their nutritional needs are not being met. Nursing homes operate under strict dietary guidelines that vary from state to state. However, all nursing home facilities should be making sure residents receive three meals a day, water, and other fluids are served at mealtimes, and snacks and drinks are offered between meals.
There are other issues that could contribute to dehydration. According to Mayo Clinic, these include:
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Lack of mobility, which may make it difficult to obtain water without assistance
- Lack of assistance with eating and drinking
- Dementia and confusion
- Medications that may increase the risk of dehydration
- Underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease
- Recent illnesses, especially those with symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, or fever, which cause the body to lose fluids more rapidly
Water is essential to maintaining our health and ensuring the body is properly functioning. Our bodies need water to keep our joints lubricated, protect our organs and tissues, keep our nose, mouth, and eyes moist, regulate body temperature, and flush out waste. We naturally lose water through our breath, urine, bowel movements, and perspiration, and it is important to replace fluids through eating and drinking.
If we do not ingest enough fluid, we become dehydrated, which can lead to other health problems. Failure to monitor and measure a resident’s water consumption could lead to dehydration, which can cause constipation, urinary tract infections, and kidney stones, as well as more serious issues, like kidney failure, or even death.
Caregivers should be alert for these signs of dehydration:
- Infrequent urination
- Dark urine
- Dry mouth
- Extreme thirst
- Sunken eyes and cheeks
If a nursing home staff member notices signs of dehydration in a resident, they should notify the resident’s doctor.
Family members of nursing home residents also should be aware that malnutrition and dehydration may be some of the first warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect.
Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Neglect
Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect may happen more than you think. In a study of more than 2,000 residents, 44 percent reported being abused, while 95 percent said they suffered neglect or saw someone else suffer neglect. Abuse can be physical, financial, sexual, or the results of intentional or intentional neglect. Sometimes, unintentional neglect happens when a nursing home is understaffed or the staff is not properly trained.
According to U.S. News & World Report, other indications there may be abuse or neglect occurring in your loved one’s nursing home include:
- Unexplained cuts, sores, bruises, or burns
- Excessive instances of falling or other injuries
- Weight loss
- Lack of help toileting, or infrequent changing of soiled diapers
- Call bells and cries for help go unanswered
Your loved one may also show changes in behavior, such as acting depressed, acting violent or aggressive, or losing interest in activities they once enjoyed.
If you suspect abuse and neglect, you should report it immediately. The first step is to write a detailed report documenting any concerning instances. You can file this report with nursing home administration, as well as the state regulatory agency for nursing homes (usually the health department), the local police, adult protective services, and an organization that advocates against elder abuse. If you witness abuse as it happens, or there is a medical emergency, call 911.
Pintas & Mullins Law Firm Can Protect Your Rights
We believe that when you put your loved one in a nursing home, you should be able to feel confident they are being cared for with kindness, dignity, and respect. Dehydration could be a sign of neglect or wrongdoing. At Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, we believe elder abuse should never be tolerated, and we want to help fight for seniors’ rights.