NPH_CMNov_Topic4_2000x566 mobile NPH_CMNov_Topic4_2000x566 desktop

Do You Have a Case?

Find Out Now >
Home > Blog > Nursing Home Abuse > Why Dehydration Is a Common and Potentially Fatal Condition for Neglected Residents
by: NPHM | November 28, 2022

Why Dehydration Is a Common and Potentially Fatal Condition for Neglected Residents

For most adults, dehydration is a temporary condition that happens during illnesses, after intense exercise, or after consuming alcohol. But for older adults, especially those who live in nursing homes and who have mobility issues or cognitive decline, dehydration can be a chronic condition.

Mild forms of dehydration can result in serious health problems, especially when the condition persists for several weeks, months, or even years. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and can lead to organ failure, coma, and even death if not treated. Unfortunately, varying degrees of dehydration are common in the elderly, especially neglected nursing home residents.

Why Do Nursing Home Residents Become Dehydrated?

There are three primary reasons why nursing home residents become dehydrated:

  • They don’t drink enough water or liquids during the day: As people age, their sense of taste and smell may weaken, and they also may not feel as hungry or thirsty throughout the day. The combination of those changes can result in them eating and drinking less often than they should. In addition, nursing home residents with cognitive decline due to dementia and Alzheimer’s also may neglect to drink water. Nursing home staff are supposed to monitor residents and ensure they are drinking enough water, but when nursing homes are understaffed or negligent, this may not happen (and the nursing homes can be held liable).

  • They are victims of neglect and don’t get the liquid intake they need: Many nursing home residents rely on caretakers and staff members to provide them with food, water, medication, and other essentials. When residents are victims of neglect, they don’t get those essentials with any regularity, and they may go an entire day or longer without food or water.

  • They want to reduce the number of times they need to go to the bathroom: When nursing home residents have mobility issues, it can be difficult for them to get up and go to the bathroom, especially if they aren’t receiving the assistance they need from nursing home staff. Some may wear adult diapers to reduce their need to get up, especially at night. They may drink less and less over time to reduce their urine output, but in doing so, they may become severely dehydrated.

What Are the Complications of Dehydration in Nursing Home Residents?

Dehydration can have devastating effects on anyone’s health, but it can be particularly dangerous for older adults. Initially, they may develop headaches and muscle cramps. As dehydration worsens, they may develop a rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, become dizzy, and even lose consciousness.

One of the most common complications of dehydration is falls. Dehydrated adults have low blood pressure, which can drop even further when they stand up after lying or sitting down. This can make it extremely difficult for them to remain steady on their feet, even when they use canes or walkers. When nursing residents fall, they’re at risk of suffering permanently disabling and even fatal injuries, such as broken hips.

When dehydration reaches its most severe stage, organ failure may occur. That’s because the body takes water from the organs in order to perform basic functions. Once the organs have lost water, they can no longer function properly. Coma is a common precursor to death in severe dehydration. Rehydrating people who have developed severe dehydration is a delicate process and often requires hospitalization.

How Can You Tell if Your Loved One Is Dehydrated?

Mild dehydration isn’t always noticeable. When you visit your loved one, look for signs that they’ve been drinking enough water or liquid, including used cups and empty water bottles. You should also ask them about their liquid intake.

As dehydration progresses, physical symptoms become more obvious. Residents may develop dry, shriveled-looking skin that’s cool to the touch, sunken eyes, and difficulty being awakened from naps or in the morning.

How Can Families Ensure Their Loved Ones Stay Hydrated?

Because many older adults have impaired senses of smell and taste, they may avoid drinking water because they find it unpleasant. Giving them other healthy liquids, such as lemon water, coconut water, fruit juice, or sports drinks may taste better to them and keep them hydrated.

For residents with good mobility and cognition, it can be helpful to set hydration goals for each day. That can include filling up a large container of liquid (around six to eight glasses worth) with water, juice, or other favored hydrating beverage and asking them to finish it every day. This also makes it easier for both caregivers and residents themselves to keep track of how much liquid they’re drinking.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to ensure neglected residents stay well-hydrated, especially when they lack the mobility or cognitive function to get water and other liquids on their own. When neglect is the cause, it’s important to bring up the issue with the nursing home administrators and a lawyer. You may even need to move your loved one to a different facility.

We’re Here to Help with Your Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse Claim

If your loved one suffered a serious injury or illness because they were neglected or abused in their nursing home, the experienced Ohio nursing home abuse lawyers at Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy are here to help. We have decades of experience assisting families and their loved ones just like yours, and we know what it takes to win.

Contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll work hard to ensure your family is compensated for the mistreatment your loved one suffered at the hands of people who were supposed to be caring for him or her.

Get Help Today!