If you suspect your loved one has been a victim of dehydration, you should get help for your loved one immediately. Severe dehydration can cause urinary tract infections, pressure ulcers, pneumonia, weakness, and in some cases death. Dehydration is especially worrisome in elderly people, such as nursing home residents, so help your loved one hydrate immediately, and if necessary, get medical help for any infection, illness, or injury they may have suffered as a consequence of dehydration.
In mild cases, dehydration can be treated with lots of fluid intake. Keep liquids such as water and sports drinks by your loved one at all times, and make sure they take drinks regularly. If your loved one’s dehydration is severe, it may be necessary to take them to emergency care.
After attending to your loved one, there are a few further steps you should take. If your loved one resides in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you may wish to report the nursing home for neglect. You should also consult a Georgia nursing home dehydration lawyer to find out if you have a case against the facility and if your loved one can receive financial compensation for the neglect.
Signs of dehydration include thirst, dry skin, cracked lips, and fever. In elderly people, signs of dehydration may include confusion or disorientation, dizziness, headaches, difficulty walking, constipation, a rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, sunken eyes, a dry mouth, low urine output, and the inability to produce tears or sweat.
Medical practitioners often check for dehydration by assessing a patient’s skin turgor and mucous membranes. Skin turgor refers to the elasticity of the skin; when the skin is stiff and doesn’t return easily to its normal shape, it’s usually a sign of dehydration. You can check this by pinching the skin on the back of the hand and holding it for a few seconds. Then release the skin and see if it returns to its normal shape immediately. If it does not, the person may be dehydrated.
Abnormal laboratory values can also be a sign of dehydration. For instance, elevated hemoglobin and hematocrit, potassium, chloride, sodium, albumin, transferrin, blood urea nitrogen, and urine specific gravity in a lab test are all signs someone may be suffering from fluid loss.
To prevent dehydration, nursing homes should provide residents with liquids throughout the day and remind them to drink at regular intervals. Nursing homes should keep water or other drinks within a resident’s reach at all times, and provide foods that contain water – like fruit, vegetables, and soups.
Most people need about as much daily fluid as their body weight in kg times 30cc. Except for residents with renal or cardiac diseases, nursing homes should try to ensure that residents take in at least this much fluid every day.
Some factors put residents more at risk for dehydration. Nursing homes should assess residents for these factors, be especially vigilant with at-risk residents, and provide plenty of opportunities for daily hydration based on the individual’s specific needs. Some residents need promptings, reminders, or assistance to drink; nursing home caregivers should provide whatever assistance is necessary to ensure residents remain hydrated.
If residents have trouble taking in fluids, caregivers should use alternate approaches, like popsicles and gelatin. Additionally, nursing homes should educate staff on the importance of hydration for seniors.
Many nursing home residents are at increased risk for dehydration because of certain factors. Residents with dementia may forget to drink regularly or forget how to drink. Residents suffering from diarrhea, vomiting, or fever experience greater fluid loss. Some residents may refuse to drink, and others may have conditions like decreased sensorium, coma, uncontrolled diabetes, or renal dialysis – which can make it difficult for them to take in fluids. Others may have functional impairments that make it difficult for them to reach fluids or tell caregivers they are thirsty or need help drinking.
People often experience a diminished sense of thirst as they grow older, so nursing home residents may not feel the need to drink. The presence of certain medications may make residents sweat more or may decrease their sense of thirst. Additionally, people over age 70 often lose kidney function, which means their bodies have more difficulty conserving fluids.
Nursing homes with a low number of staff may not have time to assess and attend to each residents’ individual hydration needs. Or caregivers may not recognize the importance of hydration, due to a lack of training on the part of the nursing home.
Under Georgia nursing home law, a nursing home must provide each resident with enough fluids to maintain proper health and hydration. This means caregivers must make sure residents receive the right amount of daily fluids to prevent dehydration based on residents’ individual needs. Nursing homes should recognize that this amount may be different for each resident, and that it may change when a resident’s health changes (because of fever or diarrhea, for example).
Because of this law, nursing homes can be held responsible for dehydration – which constitutes an act of neglect and is therefore illegal. If a nursing home is responsible for a resident’s dehydration, then the nursing home may be required to cover the cost of any expenses, such as medical bills, related to the resident’s dehydration. The nursing home may also be required to compensate the resident for pain and suffering caused by dehydration.
If dehydration results in death, then the nursing home may have to compensate the deceased’s family for expenses, pain and suffering, and bereavement. If you are wondering if you have a case against a nursing home for dehydration, please feel free to call and speak to one of our Georgia nursing home dehydration lawyers today.