Understanding How Dehydration in a Nursing Home Can be Deadly
Water is our life source. While you can live for weeks without food, you can only survive a few days without water. Our bodies are mostly water, making water an important building block for the human body. Everything from our blood, brain, skin, and even our muscles are all made up of high concentrations of water. However, as we age our bodies lose much of our water weight making us more prone to dehydration. This can result in everything from minor headaches to decreased organ function. In severe cases, hydration can cause permanent damage to our body. This is why it is important to ensure that we are properly hydrated.
It is also important that nursing homes and rehabilitation centers ensure that residents are properly hydrated. Although some nursing homes do a good job with hydration, many fail. In fact, a study published in Reuters Health found that “[p]eople in nursing homes are more likely to be dehydrated than elderly people living in the community[.]” This is actually quite shocking, because it indicates that senior citizens not under the care and protection of a nursing home are better off than senior citizens in a nursing home. What are we paying nursing homes for then?
The study, which involved over 21,000 patients admitted to hospitals in the UK, found that dehydration of elderly patients coming from nursing homes were more commonly dehydrated than elderly patients coming from the community. The study’s senior author found that these statistics should raise a “warning flag” at nursing homes that residents are not being encouraged to drink enough.
Why is Dehydration Dangerous?
Our St. Louis nursing home and abuse lawyer knows how dangerous dehydration can be. The basic definition of dehydration is when your body loses more fluids than you put in, and your body does not have enough water to carry out its normal functions. Dehydration is dangerous for any person, but particularly for young children and senior citizens. The reasons why dehydration is dangerous for elderly adults is because of the following:
- Kidney problems – long periods of dehydration can place immense stress on the kidneys which can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney stones, and even lead to kidney failure. If an elderly patient has kidney failure, this could be a downward spiral and death sentence for a resident.
- Seizures – When a person is dehydrated there is an increase in sodium concentration in the body, which would normally be diluted with proper fluids. This increased sodium concentration creates an imbalance between electrolytes (potassium and sodium) which help carry signals from cell to cell. This imbalance can lead to seizures which could cause violent and damaging injuries to an elderly resident.
- Hypovolemic shock – Dehydration can also result in hypovolemic shock, which is a life-threatening complication that occurs when there is low blood volume in the body due to a drop in blood pressure. This drop in blood pressure is due to a lack of fluids. It is particularly dangerous because this combination of lower blood pressure and less blood translates into less useable oxygen throughout the body.
- Heart problems – As a result of the decreased amount of useable oxygen in the body, a person’s heart will begin to beat harder and faster. In an elderly resident or a senior citizen in a rehabilitation facility recovering from surgery or another medical emergency, this complication could result in a heart attack or heart failure and be fatal.
How Nursing Homes Cause Dehydration
There are many ways that nursing homes can cause dehydration. Some facilities are set up with limited access to water, whereas other facilities do not adequately monitor the water intake of residents. Even in the facilities that monitor intake, they may not be monitoring output of fluids which is a very important component of the equation. As a result a failure to properly supervisor and provide adequate fluids for residents isa very common way that nursing homes are failing to properly hydrate residents.
In addition, nursing homes may fail to monitor and encourage residents who are on certain medications to drink enough fluids. This is because certain medications require increased water intake, but a nursing home may fail to realize that. As such, even a resident receiving adequate hydration under normal circumstances may become dehydrated on medications which require additional hydration. But the resident may not know to drink more fluids, because he or she is not usually in control of the medication and its label providing directions.
One of the most common reasons why nursing home residents get dehydrated is a simple failure by nursing home staff members to help residents get a drink of water. Many residents are mentally or physically unable to get a drink on their own and nursing home employees just don’t take the time to help them. There will often be a pitcher of water next to a dehydrated resident’s bed, but employees never took the time to help them get a drink.
Is a Loved One Dehydrated in a Missouri Nursing Home? Call Us Right Now
Dehydration may be one of the most commonly warned-of conditions that we hear about as a child and adult. When dehydration occurs to a senior citizen, the danger of serious physical injury is very real. This is why Missouri nursing homes must ensure that all residents are properly hydrated, especially those on certain medications. The longer and the more bouts of dehydration that a resident endures, the more physical damage that is done to their already fragile bodies. Learn more from our St. Louis nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer at the Terry Law Firm by dialing (314) 334-1441.