We all need water to survive. Proper hydration is essential to our health and well-being, and without it, our bodies cannot function. Water makes up 60 percent of our body weight, and according to Mayo Clinic, every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies needs it to work properly.
We all need to make sure we replenish our bodies’ fluids throughout the day. The water in our bodies keeps our joints lubricated, regulates our body temperature, and protects our organs, among other important functions. We naturally lose water through urine, sweat, breath, and bowel movements, and other activities, like vigorous exercise or exposure to heat.
We replace the water in the body by consuming food and drink, but when we do not get enough water, it can lead to dehydration. If dehydration is not treated, it can cause serious health problems, especially in the elderly.
As we age, we naturally retain less water, and our sense of thirst decreases. This makes the elderly especially vulnerable to dehydration, and seniors living in nursing homes are even more at risk of suffering from dehydration than those living at home.
Nursing home staff should be making sure residents are drinking enough, and failure to recommend fluids during, before, and after mealtimes could result in dehydration. This also could be a sign of more serious problems with your loved one’s nursing home care.
Dehydration and the Elderly
Several conditions that affect the elderly can contribute to the risk of dehydration. These include:
- Mobility issues that make it difficult to get water without help
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Lack of needed assistance when eating and drinking
- Dementia and confusion
- Medications that contribute to dehydration
- Underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease
- Recent bouts of vomiting, fever, or diarrhea
Confusion, dizziness, fatigue, sunken eyes and cheeks, and weakness all could be signs of dehydration in your loved one. Other signs to watch for include infrequent urination or dark urine, dry mouth, and extreme thirst.
Mild dehydration can be treated by administering additional fluids, but serious and prolonged instances can lead to more severe conditions, like urinary tract infections, kidney stones, kidney failure, and even death.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Sadly, nursing home abuse and neglect can occur regardless of laws prohibiting it, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that a study of more than 2,000 nursing home residents found 44 percent said they had been abused, and 95 percent had experienced neglect or witnessed another resident being neglected.
According to the U.S. News & World Report, dehydration and malnourishment are frequent signs of nursing home neglect. Dehydration could signal your loved one may not be receiving all of his or her meals, or may not be getting needed assistance with eating and drinking.
Each state has its own regulations for dietary services in nursing homes. The specifics may differ, but all nursing homes are required to meet residents’ dietary needs, provide regular and nourishing meals, and offer snacks and fluids throughout the day. Dehydration could mean the nursing home is failing to provide proper nutrition or recommend fluids during, before, and after mealtimes. Neglect may not always be intentional. Though no less harmful, it could be the result of poorly trained or overworked staff.
Other signs your loved one may be experiencing abuse or neglect include:
- Lack of toileting or changing of disposable diapers
- Lack of bathing and hygiene
- Weight loss
- Unexplained cuts, sores, bruises, or burns
- Acting withdrawn
- Aggressive or violent behavior
- Repeated instances of falling, fractures, and other injuries
If you suspect abuse or neglect in your loved one’s nursing home, it should be reported. You should file a detailed, dated report with the nursing home’s administration.
You may also wish to file a report with local law enforcement, the agency responsible for overseeing nursing homes in your state, agencies that advocate against elder abuse, and/or adult protective services. If you witness abuse as it is happening, call 911.
Pintas & Mullins Law Firm Can Help
It is awful to think that your loved one could be suffering from abuse or neglect in their nursing home. At Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, we want to help you make sure your loved one is being taken care of with kindness, dignity, and respect.
Dehydration could be a sign the nursing home is not meeting its duty of care, or that your loved one may be being mistreated. If negligence or abusive practices are happening, they should be stopped, and those responsible should be held accountable for their wrongful actions. A nursing home lawyer can help you protect your loved one and fight for their rights.
To learn more, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 for a risk-free consultation.