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DehydrationWhen our elderly loved ones can no longer care for themselves, the time often comes where we must entrust a nursing home to take proper care of them. While we might like to think that nursing homes are trustworthy facilities that pay the utmost care and attention to their residents, that unfortunately isn’t always the case. Sadly, there is always a small chance that these unsuspecting elders may be abused or neglected in their nursing homes. It has been reported that 1 in 10 elders, over the age of 60, suffer from abuse every year.

Typically, our concerns lie with the most obvious forms of nursing home neglect, such as physical and emotional abuse, but surprisingly one of the most common is the duo combination of malnutrition and dehydration. In fact, nearly a third of the 1.4 million residents in a U.S. nursing home suffer from dehydration and malnutrition.


What is Dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when an individual loses an excessive amount of body fluids through urination or sweat and is not taking in adequate amounts of fluids through drinking and eating to replenish them. While most healthy individuals can handle and fight dehydration, those who are sick or elderly may not be able to, leading to serious health risks or even death.

For the elderly, dehydration is a particular risk, as side effects from medications or the presence of some health conditions can cause not only an increased loss of fluids but also an inability to intake new fluids. Physiological changes resulting from elder abuse may also play a part in dehydration.

Once an elder suffers from the symptoms of dehydration, it can often be very difficult to re-hydrate them. Furthermore, they are at risk for a host of other medical problems, such as:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Worsened dementia
  • Bedsores
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Pneumonia
  • Higher rate of developing infections
  • Anemia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Tooth decay
  • Broken or weakened bones


Dehydration of Nursing Home Residents

Unfortunately, the sheer neglect of staff members in some nursing home facilities means that their residents often become dehydrated. Staff may either forget or refuse to give the residents a sufficient amount of fluids to keep them healthily hydrated. Heavy workloads, high turnover rates, inability to convince an elderly person to consume enough fluids, or simply a lack of care and consideration can lead staff to fail in getting residents to drink or eat enough. 

Another issue is that many elderly nursing home residents are unable to voice when they are thirsty and are in need of fluids. Additionally, many elders are unable to tell a staff member what type of fluids they are interested in drinking due to language barriers or an inability to physically speak. 

Because the issue of dehydration amongst nursing home residents is so high (and potentially fatal), it’s important that family members are aware and able to understand nursing home abuse and neglect and recognize the signs of dehydration. Early-stage symptoms are often quite familiar, and can include:

  • A dry or sticky mouth
  • Expression of thirst
  • Decreased urination
  • Dry, papery skin that does not snap back when pulled or tents when pressed on

Symptoms of later-stage dehydration can be very distressing and can include:

  • Confusion or irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to sweat
  • Worsened mental issues
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sunken eyes and cheeks

Dehydration can lead to weight loss, which can be a common cause of functional decline and premature death in the elderly. Severe dehydration can cause kidney failure, coma, and death. If you notice any of the above symptoms in your loved one, immediately notify the authorities and discuss your legal options with an elder abuse lawyer.


Contact an Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

If you or a loved one has experienced nursing home abuse, you should discuss your legal options with an attorney as you may be entitled to compensation. The Orange County nursing home abuse lawyers at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates advocate for their clients’ full financial recovery through hard work and an aggressive approach. With multiple offices located in Irvine, Los Angeles, El Segundo, San Diego and Riverside, our lawyers represent victims of elder abuse across Southern California. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our elder abuse attorneys, please call 949-727-9300.