As we age, our bodies become more vulnerable to dehydration. This is particularly true for elderly residents of nursing homes who may not have access to water or whose caregivers may not be providing adequate hydration.
Dehydration is a serious issue that can have devastating effects on the health of nursing home residents. It can cause a range of health problems, from mild cognitive impairment to more severe conditions like kidney failure and even death.
At the Noll Law Office, their nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys understand the importance of dehydration awareness in nursing homes. They represent nursing home residents and their families who have been injured by the abuse, neglect, or malpractice of nursing homes in the State of Illinois. The Noll Law Office is a small, family-run law office with experienced trial lawyers. They offer free initial consultations so you can meet with the lawyers, as them questions, and learn your rights under Illinois law and the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. If your loved one suffered injuries or death due to dehydration in a nursing home in Illinois, called them today at (217) 414-8889.
What is Dehydration in Nursing Homes?
Dehydration is a complex condition that results in a reduction in total body water. It is a serious problem that can devastate the health of elderly nursing home residents. There are several types of dehydration, each with distinct causes and treatments.
There are three main types of dehydration: isotonic, hypotonic, and hypertonic. Each type is characterized by a different electrolyte imbalance in the body.
- Isotonic dehydration occurs when there is a loss of both water and electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, in equal proportions. This is the most common type of dehydration and can be caused by a variety of factors, including inadequate fluid intake, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive sweating.
- Hypotonic dehydration occurs when there is a loss of more electrolytes than water, leading to a decrease in the concentration of electrolytes in the body. This type is typically caused by excessive sweating, kidney disease, or the use of diuretic medications.
- Hypertonic dehydration occurs when there is a loss of more water than electrolytes, leading to an increase in the concentration of electrolytes in the body. This type is typically caused by a lack of water intake or excessive fluid loss through sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea.
The most common types of dehydration in nursing homes are water-loss dehydration and salt-loss dehydration. For older people, serum osmolality appears to be the most appropriate gold standard for the diagnosis of water-loss dehydration.
The risk is higher in older adults due to various factors, including lower muscle mass, reduced kidney function, physical and cognitive disabilities, blunted thirst, and polypharmacy. Cross-sectional studies suggest a 20-30% water-loss dehydration prevalence in this population.
Common Causes of Dehydration in Illinois Nursing Homes
Dehydration is a serious problem in nursing homes and can be caused by a range of factors. Common causes in nursing homes include:
- Limited Access to Water: Nursing home residents may not have easy access to water due to limited mobility or other physical impairments. Also, some nursing homes may need more water bottles or cups, making it hard for people to drink enough fluids.
- Neglect or Abusive Behavior by Caregivers: Unfortunately, some nursing home staff members may neglect or abuse their residents, leading to inadequate hydration. This can include intentionally withholding fluids or failing to provide adequate hydration options.
- Inadequate Staffing: A lack of staffing in nursing homes can lead to a range of problems, including decreased monitoring of fluid intake and decreased assistance with drinking. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that inadequate staffing and lack of professional supervision contributed to dehydration in nursing homes.
- Physical and Cognitive Impairments: Nursing home residents may have physical or cognitive impairments that make it difficult for them to drink fluids independently. For example, residents with dysphagia may have difficulty swallowing, leading to decreased fluid intake. Additionally, residents with cognitive impairments may forget to drink or recognize when thirsty.
Nursing home staff needs to be aware of the risk factors for dehydration and take steps to prevent it. Having a Comprehensive Care Plan for each resident is an important first step to preventing it in the first place.
Risks and Injuries Associated with Dehydration
Dehydration can cause serious health problems, especially in elderly nursing home residents with health problems. Some common injuries associated with dehydration in nursing homes include:
- Death: Severe dehydration can ultimately result in death, particularly in nursing home residents not receiving adequate care and supervision. To prevent these serious health problems, it is important to watch for and treat dehydration in nursing home residents.
- Brain Injuries: Dehydration can also cause brain injuries, particularly in severe cases where the brain is deprived of adequate fluids and nutrients. This can lead to a range of neurological symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, confusion, and even loss of consciousness. In some cases, dehydration can also trigger a stroke or other serious brain-related injuries.
- Seizures: When dehydration affects the brain, it can lead to seizures, which are serious health issues. Seizures can be particularly dangerous for elderly nursing home residents with other underlying health conditions.
- Kidney Failure: Dehydration can also lead to kidney failure, particularly when the condition is left untreated for an extended period of time. The kidneys filter waste out of the blood, and if they aren’t getting enough water, they may be unable to do their job.
- Urinary Tract Infections: Dehydration can increase the risk of urinary tract infections caused by inadequate hydration and poor hygiene. Residents over 65 who are dehydrated may be more likely to have urinary incontinence, which makes them more likely to get sick from bacteria and infections.
It’s important to recognize the warning signs of dehydration early to prevent further complications. Here are some of the most common warning signs in nursing home residents:
- Dry mouth and throat
- Dark urine
- Confusion or disorientation
- Rapid heart rate
- Dizziness and fainting
Prevention and Treatment of Dehydration in Nursing Homes
The elderly are more susceptible to dehydration than younger people due to changes in the water and sodium balance that occur naturally as people age. Also, both elderly people who live at home and those who live in institutions often have impairments, disabilities, or handicaps, which can make them more likely to get dehydrated, especially when they are sick or in warm weather.
To prevent dehydration in nursing homes, staff members should take the following steps:
- Staff training and education: Staff members should be educated on the importance of hydration for elderly residents. They should be trained on how to identify the signs of dehydration and how to help residents maintain proper hydration levels.
- Regularly monitoring fluid intake and output: Nursing home staff should regularly monitor their residents’ fluid intake and output, including hydration charts and assessments. This will help them identify residents at risk of dehydration and take appropriate action.
- Proper nutrition: Adequate hydration from food and beverages is essential for maintaining proper hydration levels in nursing home residents. Staff should ensure that residents have a nutritious diet that includes foods and beverages with high water content.
- Hydration therapy: For severe cases, nursing homes may need to provide hydration therapy, including intravenous fluids and other medical treatments.
Elderly people should not be encouraged to consume large amounts of fluids at once but rather small amounts throughout the day. Additionally, when the recommended fluid intake cannot be achieved, fluids can be administered via a catheter or by hypodermoclysis.
Nursing Home Dehydration – Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers
It is important for family members and nursing staff to be aware of the warning signs. Early treatment can help prevent serious complications and illnesses from arising.
The Noll Law Office is committed to helping victims of nursing home abuse and neglect including those who were injured or killed due to dehydration. Their compassion and experience can provide legal help to families and victims of nursing home abuse.
If you or a loved one has suffered from nursing home abuse, neglect, or malpractice, do not hesitate to reach out to the Noll Law Office. Contact them today for a consultation and take the necessary steps to protect your rights and seek justice.