Dehydration in Nursing Homes: An Epidemic

Dehydration is a serious health risk, especially in elderly people.  Individuals over 65, who live alone or with their elderly partner, are at a higher risk of dehydration than other age groups because they may forget to stay hydrated or they are too tired to get a drink.  However, in a nursing home, dehydration should never happen and, in some situations, is an example of elderly abuse.

How Wide Spread Is This Issue?

One elderly person dying from dehydration in a nursing home is unforgivable.  People who live in nursing homes are there because they need help of varying degrees to survive.  One of the necessities of life is water.

You may be surprised to find out that in a study of 40 nursing home residents, 39 of 40 lacked proper hydration.  Even more startling, 25 of the 40 had known conditions that can be worsened by dehydration and still adequate hydration was not provided.

Elderly individuals who are admitted to the hospital with dehydration are 5 times more likely to die.

Signs of Dehydration

If one of your loved ones is a nursing home resident, there are signs of dehydration you should look for, such as:

  • Dry mouth;
  • Exhibiting thirst;
  • Dry skin;
  • Decreased urine output;
  • Confusion;
  • Deep or sunken eyes;
  • Inability to sweat;
  • Low blood pressure; and/or
  • Elevated respiratory rate.

If your loved one is exhibiting these signs, they are most likely dehydrated and need immediate assistance.

Symptoms of dehydration can be early indicators of serious complications.

Complications of Dehydration

Dehydration does not always end with a cup of water or even intravenous fluids.  This condition can cause serious damage.  Complications of dehydration include:

  • Encephalopathy (swelling of the tissue of the brain). 75% of the brain is composed of water;
  • High sodium;
  • Renal failure;
  • Seizures; and/or
  • Death.

If the individual has underlying medical conditions, they can also be exacerbated by dehydration.  Examples of these conditions are:

  • Ulcers;
  • Gastritis;
  • Acid reflux;
  • Constipation; and/or
  • Delirium.

If these complications are evident, the individual may be experiencing severe dehydration and should seek medical attention immediately.

What to Do If Dehydration Is Suspected

If you are concerned that your elderly loved one is dehydrated, ask questions.  Sometimes, elderly people simply refuse to drink enough water.  Other times, they are being neglected.  If you suspect neglect, any immediate health concerns should be addressed.  When this is handled, you may want to confide in an experienced geriatric practitioner.  Other resources include:

  • Your state’s Ombudsman Office;
  • Local authorities;
  • A physician outside of the nursing home; and/or
  • An attorney.

Dehydration can be a scary situation and it does not take long to take a turn for the worse.  If you or a loved one have been the victim of elder neglect, you need the help of a skilled and licensed attorney.

Christopher C. Walton is an award-winning elder abuse attorney who serves the San Diego and Temecula Valley Regions.  Contact Chris today at (866) 338-7079 or click here for a free consultation.