Nursing Home Dehydration and Malnourishment Lawyers

For an industry whose entire reason for being rests in its ability to ensure the welfare of its residents, the amount of dehydration and malnourishment present in US nursing homes is shocking. One report found that as many as one-third of all nursing home residents suffer from dehydration and malnourishment, with some nursing homes averaging 30–50 percent of their residents underweight. The situation is so shocking that the report’s co-author compared the situation in nursing homes to that of some developing countries, where dehydration and malnourishment are chronic and have a symbiotic relationship with recurrent infection.

In nursing homes, this deprivation can aggravate or cause serious medical problems and even death. When a nursing home resident sustains an injury or illness and shows sign of dehydration or malnourishment, nursing home negligence may be at fault.

Challenges to Staying Hydrated

According to the Mayo Clinic, older adults are at increased risk of dehydration for a few reasons — smaller fluid reserves, a reduced ability to preserve water and a decreased sensitivity to thirst. Older people also typically have conditions that can cause dehydration, like diabetes and conditions which require diuretic drugs.

In addition, many nursing home residents also have conditions which make staying properly hydrated a challenge. These challenges include:

  • Requiring assistance in drinking
  • Needing to be monitored for proper hydration
  • Medications which increase the risk of dehydration
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty lifting water pitchers

Source: Pxfuel.com, shared under a Creative Commons Zero license

These problems are compounded by an overtasked and undertrained nursing home staff. Nursing home negligence can lead to dehydration through:

  • Failing to provide residents with water when they want it
  • Poor monitoring of residents’ hydration levels
  • Not monitoring residents’ medications for effects on hydration
  • Not assisting residents who need help drinking
  • Failing to watch for signs of dehydration
  • Failing to notify a doctor after dehydration has been observed

How Nursing Home Negligence Contributes to Malnourishment

For the budget-minded nursing home, food is an afterthought. Nursing home corporations often budget an average of $4 per day toward resident meals, which can turn eating from a pleasurable task into a chore.

Nursing home negligence can also include:

  • Inadequate staffing
  • Failure to provide individualized care for those with difficulty eating
  • Unappetizing food
  • Food not prepared to proper temperature
  • Lack of culture-specific foods which residents are used to
  • An unappealing eating space

Signs of Dehydration and Malnourishment in Senior Citizens

In some cases, dehydration and malnourishment are inevitable occurrences. For this reason, nursing home staff must be on the lookout for signs of dehydration and malnourishment, and prepared to provide intervention.

Common signs of dehydration:

  • Thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Darker and more concentrated urine
  • Decreased urine output
  • Lightheadedness/dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting

Common signs of malnourishment:

  • Significant weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness/dizziness
  • Poorly healing wounds
  • Very easy bruising
  • Dental problems
  • Red, inflamed eyes
  • Confusion/inability to answer simple questions
  • Sudden memory problems
  • Jaundice
  • Muscle twitches and loss of muscle mass
  • Infections or canker sores 
  • Diarrhea

The Consequences of Dehydration and Malnutrition

A 2004 study of federal records found that close to 14,000 nursing home residents died from 1999–2002 as a result of dehydration and malnutrition. With nursing homes increasingly seen as profitable investment vehicles, it’s hard to imagine that much progress has been made.

Source: Pxfuel.com, shared under a Creative Commons Zero license

Malnutrition, dehydration and the weight loss that often results set the table for a variety of dangerous conditions, such as:

  • Anemia
  • Bedsores
  • Broken and fractured bones
  • Tooth decay
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Higher rate of developing infections
  • Worsened dementia
  • Ulcers
  • Pneumonia
  • Death

When to Consult with an Experienced Nursing Home Malpractice Attorney

In a good nursing home, dehydration, malnourishment and the injuries that can result from these conditions are entirely avoidable. They often come down to cost-cutting issues within the facility’s control, such as appropriate staffing, regular monitoring, food budget and access to water.

The best course of action if you feel that nursing home negligence has caused harm to you or a loved one is to consult with skilled attorneys like those at McEldrew Young Purtell as soon as possible. With 30 years of experience in medical malpractice, McEldrew Young Purtell is well suited to evaluate the situation and help determine if the injury suffered involved acts of negligence. 

To schedule a meeting for a free consultation, fill out our form or call us directly at 1-800-590-4116.