Nursing home residents rely on caregivers for their every need, from medical care to essentials like food and water. When staff members fail to ensure the basic needs of patients are being met, they may contribute to harmful conditions such as malnutrition and dehydration. The effects of nursing home neglect may not be as obvious as outright physical abuse, but they can be just as devastating. Dehydration and malnutrition are two of the most common forms of nursing home abuse, and together are responsible for the death of thousands of nursing home residents each year.
Elderly people are at higher risk for dehydration and malnourishment, as their aging bodies have less water content and process nutrients less efficiently than younger adults. In addition, they may be less able to recognize hunger and thirst cues or to monitor their food or water intake. Dental problems like dentures can make chewing more challenging, and a reduced sense of taste may lead senior citizens to crave salty and otherwise dehydrating foods. Depression, a common problem among the elderly in nursing homes, can also negatively impact appetite and thirst. Nursing home caregivers have a responsibility to consider all factors, from food and water intake to the effect of prescriptions and illness, to make sure elderly patients stay properly hydrated and nourished.
Effects of dehydration/malnutrition on the elderly
If not treated promptly, dehydration and malnutrition can have serious and potentially deadly consequences for seniors. A lack of proper hydration and nourishment can contribute to muscle wasting, worsened dementia, a weakened immune system, poor wound healing, reduced resistance to infection, and decreased organ function, among other symptoms. Dehydration can be particularly dangerous as it often occurs quickly and with little warning, setting the stage for complications like electrolyte imbalances, pneumonia, anemia, and increased risk of infection. Patients with advanced stages of dehydration may experience severe and life-threatening symptoms such as vomiting, breathing difficulty and seizures.
Without a healthy amount of hydration and nourishment, seniors may not have the strength or immunity to fight off dangerous infections and medical issues, contributing to failing health and even death. It’s critical that dehydration and malnutrition be identified early so that caregivers can quickly administer treatment, improving patient outcomes. Nursing home care providers who are overworked, undertrained or just plain negligent may contribute to or miss the signs of malnutrition and dehydration by failing to monitor the food and fluid intake, urine output, and physical condition of residents. Nursing homes may also create an environment that encourages malnourishment of patients by failing to provide comfortable eating environments, appetizing food, or assistance to residents who cannot eat on their own.
If you suspect a loved one has been the victim of nursing home negligence, it’s critical to take quick action. At Phillips Law Offices, our Chicago personal injury attorneys have been successfully representing nursing home abuse victims and their families for more than 65 years. When improper care or outright mistreatment result in the serious injury or death of a loved one, those responsible should be held accountable and those who have suffered harm should receive full and fair compensation for their expenses, pain and anguish.
Instances in which nursing homes may be liable for damages include, but are not limited to:
- Understaffing that prevents staff from properly feeding and monitoring residents
- Failure to assist residents unable to eat or drink on their own
- Inadequate staff training in regard to proper nutrition and feeding methods
- Lack of monitoring/supervision to ensure residents receive enough food and water
There is no excuse for improper care or negligence that allows an elderly person to succumb to preventable conditions such as malnutrition or dehydration. If someone you love has endured injury or illness caused by dehydration or malnutrition, contact us immediately at (312) 346-4262 or online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options. Our attorneys are committed to helping your family obtain the justice and financial recovery you deserve.