Proper nutrition and adequate hydration are essential in the nursing home setting. If your loved one shows signs of malnutrition or dehydration, this could be a sign of abuse or neglect on the part of the staff. It could show that they failed to provide enough food and water, failed to monitor whether the resident was eating or drinking, or failed to provide a diet that is consistent with known medical needs.
The Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
Feeling thirsty is not always a reliable indicator of an older person’s need for water. Often, elders may already be dehydrated before they even feel thirsty. Some older adults may be unable to communicate their need for fluids to busy nursing home staff. It’s up to family members and loved ones to watch for signs of dehydration.
Signs of moderate dehydration include the following:
- Dry mouth
- Decreased urine output
- Urine that is more yellow than normal
- Dry skin
Signs that dehydration has reached the extreme stage may include:
- Very dark-colored urine
- Loss of appetite
- Flushed and red skin on the face
- Difficulty breathing
The Signs and Symptoms of Malnutrition
Malnutrition can result when there is not enough food or the food available is low in nutrients. Inadequate nutrition can lead to a weakened immune system. It also contributes to poor wound healing and decreased organ function. Ultimately, it can result in death.
Signs of malnutrition can include the following:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Tooth decay
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Loss of muscle
- Decrease in mental function
Older people are more susceptible to malnutrition than other adults for a number of reasons. They may have missing teeth or inadequate dentures. They may be unable to feed themselves. Often in nursing homes, residents complain that the food is bland or unappetizing.
Many elderly people suffer from depression, which can be dangerous because these individuals have a tendency to eat less, so they are not getting adequate vitamins and minerals to prevent malnutrition. Others may have difficulty swallowing or experience side effects from medication such as vomiting and diarrhea, so they avoid eating.
Nursing homes are responsible for protecting residents from malnutrition through monitoring resident food intake and output, assisting with meals when needed, providing an appropriate diet, and serving food that is appetizing.
The Dangers of Malnutrition and Dehydration for Nursing Home Residents
When nursing home residents do not get enough healthy food and water, they are at an increased risk of developing the following:
- Pressure ulcers
- Muscle weakness that can lead to immobility
- Renal failure
- Urinary tract infections
- Weakened immune system
Poor nutrition and hydration also make it more difficult for existing pressure ulcers and infections to heal. Symptoms such as dizziness can make older adults less steady on their feet, leading to a higher risk of falling down.
What to Do If You Suspect Your Loved One Is Dehydrated or Malnourished
If your loved one is showing any signs of dehydration or malnutrition, you should immediately inform the nursing home staff. Set up a meeting with staff and your loved one’s physician to talk about possible causes for the symptoms you have observed. Ask about meal planning and feeding assistance. The situation should improve almost immediately, and if it doesn’t, you should contact the authorities.
Contact an Alaska Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorney
If your loved one is the victim of any type of nursing home abuse or neglect, you need an attorney to protect your rights and pursue compensation for harm suffered at the nursing home. Taking legal action is essential because it not only raises awareness but will improve the life of your loved one as well as any other nursing home residents who might be abused or neglected. Ben Crittenden helps clients and their families recover damages for pain, suffering, financial loss, and medical expenses. Call today to schedule a consultation.