When you put your loved one into a nursing home, you are counting on the facility and its staff to treat them with the highest degree of care. You are trusting them to maintain your loved one’s health and meet their needs. When staff fail in their duties, it can lead to dire consequences.
A common yet serious condition affecting the elderly, especially those living in nursing homes, is dehydration. Our bodies need fluids to stay healthy, and when seniors become dehydrated, it can lead to severe and even fatal medical conditions.
Failure to notify a doctor if a staff member notices a resident’s dehydration symptoms could cause illness or injury, including constipation, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and kidney failure. Dehydration can even result in death.
Dehydration and Nursing Home Residents
According to Mayo Clinic, nearly all of our body’s major systems need water to properly function. Water aids in:
- Lubricating joints
- Moistening tissue in the eyes, nose, and mouth
- Protecting body organs and tissues
- Regulating body temperature
- Carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells
- Assisting the kidneys and liver in flushing out waste
- Dissolving minerals and nutrients for absorption
Our bodies are constantly losing water in the forms of breath, urine, sweat, and bowel movements. We have to replenish our water supply by drinking fluids.
Staying hydrated can be especially challenging for seniors because our bodies retain less water, and our sense of thirst decreases as we age. Other issues that may affect hydration include:
- Lack of mobility that makes getting a drink difficult
- Lack of assistance eating and drinking
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Medications that contribute to dehydration
- Underlying health conditions, like diabetes or kidney disease
- Recent illnesses, especially those that cause fever, vomiting, or diarrhea
Nursing home staff should make sure residents are eating regular, nutritious foods, water is offered with meals, and snacks and fluids are offered throughout the day. Staff also should be alert for any signs of dehydration, such as weakness, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, infrequent urination, or dark urine.
Mild dehydration can usually be treated by drinking more water, but failure to notify a doctor if a staff member notices a resident’s dehydration symptoms could lead to more serious health complications. It also could be a sign of substandard nursing home care.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, a study of 2,000 nursing home residents found that 44 percent of them reported being abused, while 95 percent said they experienced neglect or saw another resident neglected.
Sometimes, neglect can be unintentional, though no less harmful. Mistakes can be made when nursing home staff are poorly trained or overworked.
Dehydration and malnutrition are some of the first signs that your loved one may not be getting the care they deserve. Other signs of abuse and neglect include:
- Lack of mobility assistance
- Lack of bathing and hygiene
- Unexplained bruises, burns, sores, or other injuries
- Frequent falls, fractures, or other injuries
- Lack of toileting or changing soiled clothing and diapers
- Lack of assistance eating or drinking
- Weight loss
Your loved one may also exhibit changes in behavior, like acting violent or aggressive, or becoming withdrawn and uninterested in activities they used to enjoy. You may also see signs that the nursing home is not properly staffed, such as ringing phones going unanswered, or call bells being ignored.
In addition to neglect, seniors are unfortunately also subjected to physical, financial, and sexual abuse. In fact, the NCEA reports that a 2010 study found that over 50 percent of nursing home staff admitted to committing some form of elder abuse during the previous year.
If you believe your loved one is suffering from dehydration or other signs of abuse and neglect, you should make a detailed, written report to nursing home administration. You may also wish to file your report with the agency responsible for regulating nursing homes in your state (often, the health department), the local police, adult protective services, or an agency that advocates for the elderly. If there is a medical emergency, or you witness abuse as it is happening, call 911.
Pintas & Mullins Law Firm Is Dedicated to Seeking Justice
As our population ages, the need for nursing home care will continue to grow. At Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, we want each and every family to feel secure in their decision to put their loved one into care.
We believe in fighting for the rights of the elderly. Nursing homes and staff who provide substandard care should be held responsible for their negligence or wrongdoing. If your loved one suffered because of an illness or injury caused by dehydration, we may be able to help you seek a fair financial award.