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