Dehydration in Nursing Homes: A Sign of Neglect

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on June 6, 2017 in Nursing Home Abuse
Updated on April 25, 2024

nursing home resident holding water glassNursing homes are obligated to provide residents with adequate care that ensures residents’ needs are met. This includes ensuring that residents are well hydrated and nourished.

The Milwaukee nursing home abuse attorneys at PKSD are experienced in handling cases of elder dehydration and can help you proceed with any legal options you may be entitled to pursue.

What is Dehydration?

Dehydration refers to an abnormal deficiency of water in the human body that affects its ability to function properly. It is a dangerous condition and one of the most common forms of abuse and neglect reported in nursing homes.

The fluids stored in your body are naturally depleted when you perform regular functions and routines. For this reason, your body’s fluids must constantly be replenished or else you will become dehydrated.

Dehydration is especially dangerous for elderly nursing home residents who are unable to produce the fluids their body needs to survive. These individuals may require assistance to restore their body’s fluids and can face severe consequences if they become dehydrated.

Causes of Dehydration in Nursing Home Residents

Unfortunately, dehydration frequently occurs among nursing home residents, many of whom depend on caregivers for basic needs like replenishing their body’s fluids.

There are several reasons that nursing home residents often suffer from dehydration. They may have:

  • Decreased fluid intake
  • An inability to identify thirst
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Inadequate communication skills or a language barrier that prevents them from informing a caregiver when they are thirsty
  • Rapid fluid loss from illnesses or infections
  • Side effects from medication and treatments

Nursing homes may also play a role in contributing to causing or prolonging dehydration if there is:

  • An absence of easily available fresh water
  • Incorrectly placed feeding tubes
  • Inattentive nursing home staff
  • Inadequately trained caregivers or staff members

Nursing home residents who suffer from conditions that cause cognitive impairment or severe illness or disability are the most at risk for dehydration.

This often includes residents who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or more common conditions like a cold or the flu which are worsened due to the resident’s age and frail condition.

For this reason, nursing home staff members and caregivers are required to constantly monitor an at-risk resident’s fluid intake and check for symptoms of dehydration.

Symptoms of Dehydration

There are several symptoms that identify the onset of dehydration, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Stickiness in mouth
  • Thirst
  • Dry skin
  • Pale skin
  • Canker sores in the mouth
  • Decreased urine output
  • Decreased urination frequency

If neglected, the symptoms of dehydration will intensify to the point of a serious medical condition. If your loved one displays any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Low amounts of perspiration
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sunken eyes
  • Rapid breath
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Loss of consciousness

Following a severe case of dehydration, your loved one should be treated by an experienced medical professional who will replenish and monitor his or her fluids.

The Effects of Dehydration on Nursing Home Residents

Dehydration can be especially dangerous to elderly individuals, particularly those residing in nursing homes who are already suffering from a debilitating condition.

Many elderly people suffer from chronic dehydration and are unable to maintain an adequate level of fluids in their body. If left untreated, dehydration can cause life-threatening complications, such as:

  • Brain swelling: This can occur if a person consumes too many liquids after being dehydrated. The person’s brain cells might react by absorbing water too quickly and cause permanent damage.
  • Seizures: Dehydration may cause an elderly person to suffer a seizure, leading to involuntary muscle contractions and loss of consciousness.
  • Kidney failure: This may happen if a dehydrated elderly person’s kidneys are unable to filter waste from the blood.
  • Death or Coma: Severe cases of elder dehydration may result in death if the condition progresses too far.

If your loved one has suffered from life-threatening condition caused by dehydration, contact our Milwaukee nursing home abuse lawyers as soon possible.

We will review the nursing home’s conditions and the staff’s actions to determine if negligence jeopardized the resident’s health and well-being.

Schedule a Consultation with a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

Nursing homes are legally obligated to care for residents in a manner that ensures a high quality standard of care and living.

This includes providing the means for residents to be fully hydrated at all times, as well as assisting residents who are unable to hydrate themselves.

If your loved one has been subjected to treatment or care that fails to meet this basic standard, you may be entitled to pursue legal action. PKSD’s nursing home abuse attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of nursing home residents and holding abusive or negligent facilities and staff members accountable for their actions. Do not hesitate to contact us for a free, no obligation consultation to review your claim. All of our services are provided at no upfront cost, and we only charge you if we reach a fair outcome for your claim.

Call 414-333-3333 or complete our Free Case Evaluation form to schedule a consultation.

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