Factors and Conditions That Foster Dehydration

January 03, 2014 | Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers

Many residents of nursing homes suffer from dehydration.  Sometimes dehydration is the result of inadequate attention or a lack of care provided by nursing home staff, i.e., the dehydration is the result of nursing home neglect.  There are many factors that can add to the risk of dehydration in the elderly, and nursing home staff should take such factors into consideration when providing the appropriate care for residents of the nursing home. Nursing home staff should take extra precautions to keep residents hydrated when any of the following factors are present:

Very old age

As people age, they naturally lose their ability to hold and retain water. They also lose their senses of taste and smell and often lose their ability to perceive that they are thirsty as well.  Those who are very old, for example, 70 years and older should be provided with extra hydration opportunities, multiple times a day.  The very elderly should be provided with extra opportunities to rehydrate in between meals and should be provided snacks that have high water content and good nutritional value.


Some medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), laxatives, steroids and anti-psychotics, and polypharmacy can cause dehydration.  NSAIDs are commonly used in the treatment of inflammatory conditions and are commonly prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, muscle stiffness, and post-operative pain management.  Laxatives are often prescribed to elderly patients for any number of reasons.  Steroids are often used in certain cancer treatment regimens while anti-psychotics are commonly used to curb behavior problems associated with various psychological conditions.  Polypharmacy exists when a person takes a combination of drugs, and those drugs interact with each other in the body.  Elderly individuals very often take multiple prescription medications in what is referred to as a “cocktail.”  To help combat the effects of dehydration due to medications, residents should be provided with a glass of water when taking each medication.  For example, if a resident needs to take a morning dose of medications and an evening dose, the resident should be given a full glass of water with each dose.

Physical ailments

Elderly residents often have a plurality of physical conditions that affect them and make it difficult to retain water and stay properly hydrated. A few examples of physical ailments that have a significant impact on hydration are dysphagia, diabetes mellitus, kidney dysfunction, bladder infections, and uncontrolled incontinence.  Dysphagia is a symptom associated with difficulty swallowing.  Problems with swallowing may require the resident to have a tube feeding, which can feel uncomfortable and highly invasive to the resident.  As such, residents with dysphagia may want to limit the amount of swallowing they have to do each day, which can lead to them not getting enough liquids to stay hydrated.  Diabetes can cause dehydration because the body cannot break down sugar the way it is supposed to.  The sugar is passed through urine, and due to the high concentration of sugar in the urine, osmosis causes the body to lose water into the sugary urine.  Similarly, kidney dysfunction, bladder infections and uncontrolled incontinence, all can cause dehydration through the frequent passage of urine.

If you are worried that your loved one is suffering from inadequate care at the nursing home, or is suffering from dehydration, please call our Illinois nursing home abuse law firm to discuss the situation at (847) 869-9100.