glass of water sitting alone

The Cause & Effect of Dehydration in Nursing Homes

Neglect is a multifaceted issue with many different causes, various forms, and a variety of sometimes hard to spot symptoms. For example, just one aspect of neglect could be something so simple as dirty bed sheets, or undetectable as dehydration. As a form of neglect, dehydration may be the last thing that comes to mind, but dehydration among elderly nursing home residents can, unfortunately, be a sign of neglect and lead to other health issues.

Dehydration Stats & Causes

One study conducted among nursing home residents found that all of the participating residents were clinically dehydrated and 25 out of the 40 participants suffered from other diseases that stemmed from, or were made worse by, dehydration. 

There are a couple different circumstances that can lead to dehydration. One would be a language barrier. If the resident is unable to communicate that they are thirsty, or what type of beverage they would like, then staff may have a difficult time regularly attending to their needs. Conversely, dehydration can also be the result of staff shortages or excessive staff turnover. This means that a resident may only get water or any other beverage at meal times and when they are given medicine. And at those times, whether or not the resident actually drinks something is probably not enforced or highly monitored.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Symptoms of dehydration vary from person to person, can depend on other health issues, and may be hard for residents to communicate. At first, some of these symptoms may seem like nothing, but symptoms of dehydration usually worsen over time. Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • A sticky and dry mouth
  • Being thirsty or expressing thirst
  • Having dry, papery skin that tents when it is pressed on or pinched together
  • Having a decrease in the urine output and the frequency of urination
  • If someone is severely dehydrated they might experience:
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Inability to sweat
  • Sunken eyes and cheeks
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fast rate of breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Instances of delirium

Additionally, dehydration can lead to seizures, brain swelling, kidney failure, and in incredibly severe cases, comas. 

What You Can Do

Dehydration, while a very serious problem, can usually be remedied. If you are suspicious that a nursing home resident is suffering from dehydration, address the matter immediately with staff. If you are able to attend meal times with loved ones living in nursing homes, make sure they drink at least 8 oz. of fluids during their meal, and ask staff to make sure they are offered something to drink every morning and evening. If you are allowed, take the resident drinks that they usually enjoy so they always have attractive options. If the issue persists, speak with administration or someone in charge. 

If you or a loved one have been the victim of neglect or abuse, call Gharibian Law (877-875-1119) for a free consultation and the best legal representation.