Both malnutrition and dehydration deprive the body of essential nutrients. There are many risk factors that can cause malnutrition and dehydration in nursing home residents.
All nursing homes must provide residents with frequent, nutritious meals. This involves curating meal plans to meet one’s needs and monitoring their health condition. If your loved one suffered harm while in a care facility, you have legal options.
Malnutrition Comes with Many Risk Factors in Nursing Homes
In general, seniors are at a greater risk of suffering malnutrition than younger adults. Common malnutrition risk factors in the elderly include:
- Polypharmacy: Polypharmacy describes a patient who’s using multiple medications at once. Medications can alter a patient’s appetite. This potential decrease in appetite gets worse when a patient has multiple prescriptions. A research study found that over half of elderly patients taking 10 or more drugs were at risk of malnutrition.
- Inability to eat unassisted: Patients with cognitive impairments, like dementia, are at risk for malnutrition. If one cannot feed themselves, they could lose vital nutrients.
- Dental problems: It’s common for the elderly to suffer from dental problems, like losing teeth, poorly fitting dentures, or tooth infections. These conditions make eating more difficult. If seniors’ dental problems go untreated, they can suffer from malnutrition.
- Depression: Research shows that roughly one-quarter of nursing home residents experience symptoms of depression. Depressive symptoms include a loss of appetite, among others. A reduction in appetite can, in turn, lead to malnutrition.
- Dysphagia: Dysphagia is a condition that makes it difficult to swallow. Patients who’ve experienced strokes oftentimes suffer from dysphagia. In these situations, patients may benefit from intravenous fluids rather than solid meals.
What Are the Symptoms of Malnutrition?
A rapid loss in weight is the most obvious sign of malnutrition. However, it’s important to spot the less obvious signs of malnutrition, such as:
- Pale, thick skin
- Bleeding gums
- A swollen tongue
- Broken bones
- Thinning hair
- A reduction in appetite
What Are the Consequences of Malnutrition?
Malnutrition doesn’t just result in weight loss and low energy. Those suffering from malnutrition recover from diseases slower and experience higher rates of mortality.
Nursing homes must offer the best standard of care to their patients. When they don’t, and patients suffer malnutrition, they can face liability for any resulting damages.
Dehydration Risk Factors in Nursing Homes
Dehydration, like malnutrition, presents a considerable risk to nursing home patients. Dehydration risk factors include:
- Cognitive impairment: Seniors suffering from cognitive impairment are less likely to consistently drink water. Without supervision, they may not consume enough water. Nursing homes have a responsibility to ensure that all patients are properly hydrated and cared for.
- Fever: Fevers dehydrate the body. This can lead to delirium and other life-altering conditions.
- Excessive urination: The elderly typically urinate more often than their younger counterparts. Similarly, diuretics, which are prescribed for high blood pressure, cause patients to urinate more frequently. Excessive urination is a dehydration risk factor.
- Lack of mobility: Wheelchair-bound patients can’t access water without assistance. They may require the help of a nurse or caregiver to keep them adequately hydrated.
Symptoms of Dehydration
The symptoms of dehydration include:
- Infrequent urination
- Dark-colored urine
When Should I Notify a Nursing Home Employee About Dehydration?
Minor cases of dehydration can typically be treated with water and rest. However, in more extreme cases, medical intervention may be necessary. Contact a medical professional if you notice these symptoms in your loved one:
- Black or bloody stool
- Diarrhea for over 24 hours
- Irritability or noticeable disorientation
- Extreme fatigue
Serious cases of dehydration can cause seizures, heat stroke, or even death. This makes prompt action crucial.
What Should I Do if My Loved One Suffers from Malnutrition or Dehydration?
If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from neglect in their nursing home, we recommend that you:
- Consider removing them from the care facility. If your loved one is in immediate danger, you should consider removing them from the care facility. This may involve transferring them to a new facility that can prioritize their needs.
- Notify the nursing home’s administration. The nursing home’s administrators may not know about your loved one’s condition. After notifying the administration, it may change your loved one’s healthcare team and improve their treatment plan.
- Document everything. You may decide to file a claim or lawsuit against the care facility. The more information you have, the stronger your case is. Documentation may include photos of your loved one’s living conditions and correspondence between yourself and the nursing home’s staff and management.
You Have Legal Options if Your Loved One Suffered Dehydration or Malnutrition
Malnutrition and dehydration come with countless risk factors. Yet, nursing homes should know about these factors when caring for patients. If your loved one suffered harm in a care facility, you have legal options.
You can partner with Brown & Barron on your injury case. Our nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers can evaluate your situation and implement a course of action. To begin your free, no-obligation case review with our team, call us now.