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Malnutrition / Dehydration

The failure to provide the most basic level of care can result in malnutrition and dehydration for elderly residents of nursing home facilities. It would appear to be rather obvious that facilities must provide basic food, water and a decent environment for the residents. However, the reality is that an overwhelming majority of nursing home injuries and deaths could be avoided if the facility provided this basic level of care.

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There are numerous cases where an elderly individual is admitted to a nursing home for care-giving responsibility and the resident is not properly fed or hydrated. If this occurs the resident can quickly develop dehydration, kidney failure and potentially infection. The failure to provide sufficient liquids to an elderly resident can have deadly consequences. Unfortunately, this happens far too often in nursing facilities where there is a failure to provide basic care to disabled or elderly individuals.

Two out of five nursing home residents suffer from some form of dehydration. Dehydration in a nursing home can occur for a variety of reasons, including diarrhea, the effects of medication, inability to perceive thirst, physical inability to drink or swallow and embarrassment relating to incontinence. In the vast majority of occasions, a resident’s dehydration is due to inadequate care. Common situations involving dehydration include:

  • The failure of the nursing home to employ adequate staff, which results in the staff’s inability to properly feed the residents.
  • The failure of the staff members to pay adequate attention to those residents needing assistance with eating.
  • Failure to properly educate the staff on nutrition and feeding methods.
  • Failure to provide proper supervision over those who provide nutritional services.

In addition to monitoring a resident’s intake of food, the staff should be on the lookout for the following signs of dehydration:

  • Dark yellow urine
  • Sunken eyes
  • Ashen skin
  • Dry skin
  • Bleeding gums
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Weight loss

It is not too much to ask that a nursing home provide necessities such as water to the residents. Some states have even classified dehydration deaths as homicides.

Malnutrition is also a far too common occurrence in these facilities. They can occur for a variety of reasons including the resident’s inability to process food in ill-fitting dentures. These are risks which must be considered by the nursing facility in developing appropriate nutrition and diet plans for the resident. It may be necessary to utilize liquid supplements as opposed to making sure that each resident needs enough food to get necessary vitamins, minerals, protein and calories.

If you notice that your loved one has signs of malnutrition or dehydration or if you think they are not getting enough food or fluids at the nursing home, you should immediately notify the nursing staff and the physicians to prevent potentially serious, life/death threatening consequences. If your loved one has been injured as a result of malnutrition or dehydration, please contact Fenster & Cohen, P.A. to assist you in this matter.