Nursing homes need to make sure residents' basic needs are met.
One of the primary reasons residents need a nursing home level of care is because they often require help with activities of daily living, including eating and drinking. As such, one of a nursing home's most fundamental responsibilities is to ensure that residents are eating and drinking enough, and if you look at their advertising, this is often prominently mentioned as a service they provide.
The reality, however, is much more grim. One study found that 20% of nursing home residents have some form of malnutrition — and that figure may be much higher depending on how strictly malnutrition is defined. Another found that a 51% majority of nursing home residents with cognitive impairment had low fluid intake.
Especially for elderly people who are already in frail health, malnutrition and dehydration can have life-threatening consequences. That's why it's important to know the warning signs — and what you need to do if you spot them. A nursing home neglect attorney can fight for accountability and justice.
Warning signs of dehydration
- Sticky or dry mouth
- Complaining about feeling thirsty
- Dry, papery skin that "tents" when pressed on
- Decrease in frequency of urination
- Dark colored urine
- Inability to sweat
- Low blood pressure
- Sunken eyes and cheeks
- Fast rate of breathing
- Confusion and irritability
When left untreated, complications of dehydration can lead to seizures, kidney failure, and loss of consciousness. In addition, if a dehydrated person drinks water too quickly, their brain cells may try to store the fluid rapidly, leading to swelling and brain damage.
Warning signs of malnutrition
- Fatigue and weakness
- Swelling or fluid accumulation
- Dry mouth due to nutrient deficiency
- Anger and irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Hair loss
- Thin, cold skin
Over time, malnutrition can lead to dangerous levels of weight loss as well as increased vulnerability to accidents such as falls. Malnutrition also slows healing and makes the individual more vulnerable to other health issues such as infections. These effects on the immune system and overall health can ultimately lead to death.
The role of nursing home negligence in dehydration and malnutrition
Again, one of the nursing home's basic responsibilities is to ensure residents are getting enough to eat and drink. That not only includes providing food and drink but also monitoring residents during mealtimes to ensure they are actually eating and drinking the food provided.
Many nursing home residents have difficulty chewing and/or swallowing, and the facility needs to properly monitor and diagnose these issues, which may include making a referral to a speech-language pathologist for a swallow study. The nursing home is also responsible for following the resident's doctor's recommendations to ensure they can eat and drink safely, such as providing a soft diet if necessary.
Finally, nursing homes need to monitor residents for warning signs of dehydration and malnutrition and take immediate action to remedy those problems if they do occur. Malnutrition and dehydration are treatable when caught early. However, if facilities fail to properly monitor and diagnose residents, life-threatening complications can occur.
We hold negligent nursing homes accountable
Allowing residents to suffer from dehydration and malnutrition is a serious form of nursing home neglect. If your loved one became ill or died due to basic needs neglect, you have legal recourse under Georgia law. Our law firm fights for accountability and justice. Contact us today for a free consultation with a Georgia nursing home abuse attorney at Kurle Justus, LLC.