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Elderly Dehydration in Nursing Homes: Recognize, Prevent & Take Legal Action
Elderly individuals in nursing homes are at a higher risk of suffering from dehydration. Their bodies struggle to maintain a reserve of fluids, and their sense of thirst diminishes with age. The risk is further heightened in the presence of diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia, and sadly, it's often amplified due to cases of abuse and neglect in nursing homes. If you suspect your loved one is a victim of such neglect or abuse leading to dehydration, Solomon & Relihan is prepared to help.
Water Deprivation & Dehydration in Nursing Homes
Understanding Dehydration and Its Causes
Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in, disrupting the balance of minerals necessary for critical bodily functions. According to the American Geriatric Society, factors contributing to dehydration in nursing homes can include:
– Insufficient staffing and lack of supervision in nursing homes, hospices and assisted living facilities
– Age-related changes in the body’s ability to conserve water and sense thirst
– Mobility issues that make it difficult to fetch drinks
– Conditions such as colds or sore throats, causing a reluctance to drink
– Diarrhea and vomiting due to common illnesses
– Excessive sweating from certain medications, particularly cancer drugs
– Increased urination caused by diuretics
Although challenging to avoid entirely, dehydration in nursing homes is preventable. Early recognition and intervention can usually stave off serious medical complications.
Identifying Dehydration: Key Signs
The symptoms of dehydration can be challenging to detect, making it crucial to recognize the common signs often overlooked in nursing homes. Symptoms include:
– Confusion, difficulty walking, and hypotension (low blood pressure)
– Dark-colored urine, muscle cramps, and rapid heart rate
According to the Mayo Clinic, mild to moderate dehydration can usually be reversed by drinking fluids. However, severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention. It’s crucial to recognize and address dehydration symptoms promptly to prevent serious complications.
Common Complications of Dehydration in the Elderly
Dehydration can cause a range of serious complications. Failure of nursing home staff to promptly recognize and address symptoms can lead to:
– Coma, kidney disease or failure, seizures, brain swelling, and urinary tract infections
– Hypovolemic shock, a life-threatening condition that occurs when low blood volume causes a drop in blood pressure and oxygen in the body
Often, employees may not be properly trained to recognize these symptoms, leading to neglect.
Preventing Dehydration in Nursing Homes
Family members and loved ones play a crucial role in preventing dehydration. Measures include:
– Requesting staff encourage your loved one to drink fluids regularly
– Providing sports drinks or oral rehydration solutions during visits
– Ensuring urine output is monitored and additional fluids are requested when needed
– Discussing the risk of dehydration with healthcare providers
– Visiting at different times to ensure water availability
– Checking for dehydration by pulling up the skin on the back of the hand of your loved one; if it doesn’t return to normal promptly, it could be a sign of dehydration
Dehydration as a Form of Nursing Home Neglect
Despite the crucial role of family and friends, nursing homes have an obligation to prevent dehydration, and failure to do so constitutes neglect.
Studies conducted by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) reveal inconsistencies in fluid intake for residents and frequent inadequate water provision. Some residents couldn’t communicate their thirst due to language barriers or cognitive issues. Such neglect is far too common and preventable conditions like dehydration can lead to unnecessary hospitalizations and deaths.
Taking Legal Action for Dehydration in Nursing Homes
The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act considers failure to assist residents in getting adequate hydration as neglect.
If your loved one has suffered from complications due to dehydration, it’s time to take legal action. By filing a nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit, you can secure justice for your loved one’s unnecessary suffering and possibly obtain the compensation needed for improved care.
Contact Solomon & Relihan today for a free consultation. We are committed to defending victims of dehydration in nursing homes and will strive to ensure families secure fair financial compensation. Remember, every nursing home resident has the right to adequate hydration. Any nursing home that neglects this right should be held accountable.
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