Warning Signs and Dangers of Dehydration and Malnutrition

Malnutrition and dehydration are alarmingly prevalent in California nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Malnutrition and dehydration in elders can result in serious physical harm to the elder. If you have a loved elder who resides in a nursing home in Southern California, be sure to look for symptoms of malnutrition and dehydration when you visit. Common signs of malnutrition and dehydration in elders include:

•Rapid weight loss
•Cracked lips, or sores in and around the mouth
•Noticeably dry skin
•Eyes which appear sunken
•Disorientation/Confusion
•Fever and/or thirst

It is important that any indication of malnutrition or dehydration be reported, and rectified immediately, due to serious medical conditions that can develop as the result of dehydration or malnutrition, including:

•Increased likelihood of falling due to weakness
•Increased likelihood of fractures caused by fall due to bone weakness
•Onset of bedsores, which may become life threatening
•Onset of anemia
•Bladder or Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
•Pneumonia
•Malfunctioning of kidney (leading to renal failure)
•Fluid loss (diarrhea, fever)
•Death

In many instances, nursing homes in Southern California are so dangerously understaffed that nurses are unable to complete daily tasks such as delivering meals to their elderly residents’ bedsides. In many California nursing homes, staff and other health care professionals are not sufficiently trained to identify the symptoms.

The risk of malnutrition is especially acute for elders who are incapable of feeding themselves. In an understaffed nursing home, the time required to feed these patients is too costly, and trays of food are sometimes delivered to a patient’s bedside, only to remain untouched because a staff member is unable to personally feed the patient.

Likewise, it does not take much for an elder to become dehydrated. Brief periods with no water, rooms with slightly elevated temperatures, and increases in body temperature can lead to dehydration. Additionally, elderly residents of Southern California nursing homes are often prescribed diuretic medications, such as those for heart disease, kidney disease, and liver disease, requiring that more fluids be added to their daily intake to prevent dehydration. Elders may also lose their ability to identify when they are thirsty, and thus are unable to alert a nurse of their need for water.

If you are concerned that an elder residing in a Southern California nursing home may be suffering from malnutrition or dehydration, you should consider contacting our office for a confidential, no obligation consultation. We can be reached at (866) 338-7079 or via email at cwalton@waltonlawapc.com. Firm principal, Christopher Walton, is a top rated, award winning, San Diego elder abuse attorney who has successfully represented countless elder neglect and abuse victims in San Diego and throughout Southern California. Cases are handled on a contingency basis, so no attorney fee will be charged unless there is a monetary recovery on your behalf.