By: Greg Hach
Dehydration is a regrettably frequent occurrence among nursing home residents. A study of 40 nursing home patients found that 39 were dehydrated and 25 had illnesses that may have occurred due to dehydration. Dehydration can be prevented by fluid intake. However, some patients have difficulty voicing their needs and cannot procure water. In these situations, it is the responsibility of the nursing home staff to monitor the patient’s fluid consumption. Dehydration is one of the most common forms of nursing home neglect. A patient’s hydration levels should never be ignored, as dehydration can lead to various medical complications.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Dehydration is a loss of water that interrupts the body’s normal function and occurs when the body uses more water than it takes in. After a short period of dehydration, the body will show minor symptoms. As the condition worsens, it may eventually cause severe illness or aggravate an individual’s prior conditions. Initial symptoms of dehydration include thirst, dry skin, decreased urination, weakness, a swollen tongue, and a dry and sticky mouth. When a patient is dehydrated for an extended period of time, severe and cognitive symptoms will present themselves, including confusion, irritability, dizziness, palpitations, sluggishness, fainting, a lack of sweating, sunken eyes, low blood pressure, rapid breathing, unconsciousness, and delirium. Complications arising from long-term dehydration include seizures, brain swelling, kidney failure, coma, and even death.
To prevent dehydration, nursing home staff must routinely check in with patients to ensure their nutritional needs are being met. Special care should be given to those bedridden because they are more likely to become dehydrated. Additionally, diuretics have a tendency to increase the likelihood of dehydration, so patients taking these medications should be provided with extra fluids.
Nursing Home Staff Turnover
The staff replacement rate at nursing homes is well above the national turnover average. As a result, many new staff members have little experience and training. New staff members take longer to perform routine tasks, so that they may check in on patients less often. Understaffing is also an overwhelming problem in nursing homes. It is recommended that staff members help a maximum three patients during mealtime, yet the average staff member-to-patient ratio is 12:1. Consequently, patients do not receive the necessary attention and are more likely to become dehydrated.
In its early stages, dehydration is easily cured. A dehydrated individual should not intake fluid too quickly since this can lead to brain swelling; rather, a patient should take small sips of water. If a patient is severely dehydrated and exhibits high body temperature, elevated resting heart rate, or low blood pressure, he or she should be immediately transferred to a hospital emergency room, where a healthcare professional will administer an IV to transfer fluids to the patient.
Call Our Personal Injury Lawyers
If you or a loved one has been harmed due to dehydration or has been a victim of nursing home neglect, contact the nursing home abuse attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP by calling (212) 779-0057 for a free consultation.