Symptoms of dehydration in an elderly person include thirst, dry skin, loss of appetite, skin flushing (red face), dark-colored urine, fatigue, weakness, dry mouth, chills, dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness. Some of the more severe symptoms of dehydration include difficulty breathing, seizures, and vomiting.
Severe symptoms of dehydration are a potentially life-threatening condition and a nursing home resident who exhibits these symptoms should obtain emergency medical treatment.
Negligence Leading to Dehydration in Elderly
When anyone does not drink enough water, they may become dehydrated. Dehydration is a condition defined as a substantial loss of body fluid. Dehydration may happen due to an illness, a medical condition, a medication side effect, or simply a decrease in fluid intake. Elderly nursing home residents are at a greater risk for dehydration, as many take medications that may cause dehydration or suffer from an inability to concentrate urine from the kidneys.
Unfortunately, most incidents of dehydration in the elderly at nursing homes occur from simple neglect. Staff members may simply forget or refuse to provide elderly residents with enough water, or may fail to monitor the residents’ intake of water. Residents of nursing homes are typically unable to get up and get their own water and rely on the staff to provide them with water. Additionally, because some residents have memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease, they may not remember that they need to drink water or remember that they were not given water by staff members.
Causes of Dehydration in Nursing Homes
Nursing homes have a responsibility to their residents to provide water and other medically necessary liquids on a timely basis. Workers should receive training to spot when residents need water or are at risk for dehydration. Some examples of nursing home negligence which can lead to dehydration include the following:
- Failure to provide water and ensure that consumption of water occurs regularly by the residents
- Failure to provide appropriate staff to provide resident’s requests for water
- Failure to train the staff to recognize symptoms of dehydration
- Failure to monitor residents who may struggle with swallowing
- Failure to remain vigilant and notice any signs or symptoms of dehydration
- Failure to properly monitor medications which may cause dehydration
- Failure to recommend fluids during, before, and after mealtimes
- Failure to notify a doctor if a staff member notices a resident’s dehydration symptoms
- Failure to monitor and measure a resident’s water consumption
Many elderly residents simply do not remember to drink water, do not feel thirsty, or cannot obtain water for themselves. The responsibility rests completely with the nursing home staff to ensure that their residents do not become dehydrated.
Severe consequences occur when elderly residents of a nursing home are dehydrated. Some serious risks of dehydration can include worsened dementia, bedsores, pneumonia, weakened immune systems, ulcers, electrolyte imbalances, and a higher risk of infections. The most catastrophic consequence of dehydration is the development of a medical condition that can lead to death. If you suspect that your elderly loved one suffers from dehydration, visit with the nursing home staff immediately.
What to Do if Your Loved One Suffered Injuries or Death Due to Dehydration
Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of dehydration in an elderly person are sometimes subtle, and if dehydration is not caught quickly enough, it can directly cause injuries or even death. Some of the symptoms of dehydration could be minor and build slowly over time or appear as other medical causes or conditions.
It is important to note if your elderly loved one shows any signs of dehydration at all. Your loved one may not be able to remember how much water intake they have had recently. If your elderly loved one suffers from memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease it may be difficult for them to explain, understand, or remember that they were not provided with adequate water. It is always better to err on the side of caution and investigate the amount of water your loved one consumed. The nursing home staff should be able to provide this information to you.
However, once you begin asking questions regarding the health of your loved one, you may find that the nursing home becomes uncooperative. Nursing homes tend to deny responsibility, attempt to hide facts, or remove the liability from themselves.
If your loved one suffered from dehydration in any way, or you suspect that they died due to dehydration, it is important to obtain an autopsy report that may confirm your suspicions.
Contact a Nursing Home Lawyer for Help Today
If you believe your elderly loved one’s nutritional needs are not met in their nursing home, visit with one of our nursing home lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 to help you determine your legal rights.