Dehydration occurs when a resident rapidly loses at least three percent of his or her bodyweight. Left untreated, dehydration can lead to severe medical complications and even death.
If you have a loved one living in an assisted living facility, it is important to know the common causes of dehydration in nursing home residents so you can help your loved one remain as healthy as possible.
The Most Common Reasons for Dehydration to Occur
Recent studies have shown that up to 50 percent of nursing home residents have below-normal body weight. A leading factor in rapid weight loss is dehydration, which is caused by:
- Poor thirst perception: Not knowing when to eat or drink is widespread among nursing home patients with cognitive impairments, dementia and confusion.
- Poor oral intake: Nursing home patients who suffer from swallowing problems or poor oral health do not take in enough food and liquids on their own.
- High protein feeding tube: Nursing home patients who receive a high protein diet via feeding tubes require extra water to help balance out their electrolytes.
- Physical impairments: Immobility and other functional impairments limit completely inhibit a resident from eating and drinking on his or her own. These patients require constant assistance from properly trained staff.
- Infections: While any type of infection can lead to dehydration in the elderly, common infections that lead to this disorder include pneumonia and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- Diseases: Diabetes, multiple myeloma and related diseases have a great causal effect on an elderly individual’s fluid level.
- Incontinence: Nursing home patients with poor bladder control often choose not to drink so as to avoid any urinary mishaps or accidents.
- Vomiting or diarrhea: Illnesses that lead to vomiting and diarrhea predispose an elderly individual to dehydration.
- Medication effects: Dehydration is a common side effect of many prescription medications, including diuretics and amphetamines.
If your loved one is predisposed to any of these conditions, make sure that his or her individual care plan explains the steps the nursing home will take to prevent dehydration. Check in on your loved one often, visit during mealtimes and hold the staff accountable for the action items in the care plan.
Dehydration and Poor Care
Nursing home residents with any of the issues listed above require ongoing monitoring and assistance to ensure a healthy balance of fluid intake and urine output. The best way for nursing homes to keep all of their patients hydrated is to hire enough staff to assist with feeding and drinking.
Unfortunately, many nursing home administrators choose to cut staff and lower costs so as to increase profits. If you find your loved one living in such a situation, contact one of our personal injury lawyers.