Dehydration Signs in Nursing Homes

According to a study published in Geriatrics and Aging, the elderly are more at risk for dehydration than their younger counterparts due to several changes in the aging body, including changes in body water composition and the decline in thirst perception. This study also stated that many of the more common signs of dehydration do not apply to elderly patients. It is important, then, to make sure you understand which signs arise in nursing home residents so you can catch dehydration before it causes serious complications.

Specific Signs of Dehydration in Elderly Patients

According to the resident assessment protocols (RAPs) created by the Nursing Home Reform Act, the following signs can trigger a diagnosis of, and tailored care for, dehydration:

  • Recent weight loss: Unexplained and drastic weight loss in your loved one is a clear sign that something is wrong. Often, it signals issues with hydration and/or nutrition.
  • Failure to consume all liquids: The nursing home should provide your loved one with the right amount of liquids each day to keep him or her well hydrated. If your loved one does not take in all liquids provided, dehydration can occur.
  • Failure to eat or take medications: Dehydration can occur if your loved one does not eat enough, so make sure your loved one is eating every meal and taking his or her medication.
  • Presence of feeding or IV tubes: Feeding tubes or IVs can greatly affect your loved one’s water balance. Talk to the doctors and nurses to see how they have altered the amount of water they serve your loved one.
  • Diminished mental status: Confusion and disorientation are quite common amongst dehydrated nursing home patients. If you notice a change in metal status in your loved one, speak to the staff immediately and ask about dehydration and malnutrition.
  • Diarrhea: The presence of diarrhea also means the disappearance of fluid from the body. Make sure the nursing home is providing your loved one with extra fluid and electrolytes to make up for any lost due to diarrhea.
  • Vomiting: Vomiting causes the same loss of fluids as diarrhea. Talk to your loved one’s care providers to see what steps they are taking to replace lost electrolytes and fluids.
  • Fever: High bodily temperature causes the body to work through its fluid levels quickly. Your loved one should receive a constant stream of liquids while running a fever to avoid the serious consequences that result from dehydration.
  • Dizziness: Dizziness or vertigo are clear signs of low fluid levels. Take any comments your loved one may make about being lightheaded or dizzy seriously, as they can signal potentially severe health problems.
  • Taking a diuretic: Diuretics, or water pills, work by decreasing bodily fluid as a way to control issues such as high blood pressure. Often, these pills lead to dehydration due to increased water leaving the body. If you know your loved one is on a diuretic, make sure his or her care plan includes specific steps the nursing home will take to avoid dehydration.

Worried About Dehydration? Take Steps to Ensure Proper Care.

When you suspect that your elderly loved one is suffering from dehydration, the best thing you can do is bring immediate attention to the issue to your loved one’s care providers. Hold those providers accountable for quick action to avoid any complications that would otherwise result from lack of treatment. If your loved one’s situation does not improve quickly, call us at The Rooth Law Firm at 877-356-3007 or send us an e-mail. We’ll discuss your concerns in a free initial consultation.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by Joanna Orpia