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Is your loved one being adequately hydrated in the nursing home?

Hydration in the Nursing HomeNext to oxygen, water is the most important building block for sustainable life makes up most of our bodies. Our blood is comprised mostly of water and our brain and muscles are made up of a high concentration of it as well. When we get older, however, we lose much of our water weight and are much more prone to dehydration. It is for this reason that those who care for our loved ones pay close attention to the signs of dehydration and to make proper provisions to keep them hydrated.

The Natural Risk of Dehydration in the Elderly

The average elderly person’s body may contain up to seven liters less water than a younger person. Because of this stark difference, the elderly are at an automatic risk of being dehydrated and to exacerbate the situation is the fact that many older people may not even feel the symptoms of dehydration until it becomes a severe problem. Some elderly patients may even refuse to drink more fluids out of the false fear that it will require them to make more trips to the restroom if they drink too much. The result is a series of sudden and swift symptoms that can be life threatening.

Symptoms of Dehydration

If a patient is suddenly confused and does not have a history of dementia or other mental illness, the confusion is most likely an early symptom of dehydration. Dehydrated patients will show decreased blood pressure and an increased pulse and weight loss usually accompanies improper hydration. An oral exam will show a dry mouth and tongue, which is a common side effect of many medications— causing many caregivers to overlook this symptom. A patient’s bowel movements can provide telltale signs of dehydration as well— diarrhea usually precedes dehydration and constipation can be a sign of dehydration while the concentration of the patient’s urine can also reveal whether or not the person is hydrated properly.

Prevention

Dehydration can be a symptom of a greater medical problem, but in many cases it can be prevented by making sure that the patient has access to plenty of fluids and recognizing the early symptoms of dehydration in order to treat it quickly and effectively. The following steps may reduce the number elderly patients who suffer from dehydration.

  • Observe the amount of fluid intake for each patient and recognize whether the patient is drinking enough fluid
  • Perform regular oral checks for cracked lips or dry mouth and tongue
  • Check for dark urine— a common sign of dehydration
  • Review whether the patient’s medications may impact hydration
  • Leave plenty of water within the patient’s reach so that the patient may help him or herself to as much fluid as possible
  • Offer a variety of fluids in order to encourage patients to drink more
  • Make sure patients consume fluids during and between each meal
  • Provide water bottles to patients that can be carried around when the patients leave their rooms
  • Establish a protocol for how to respond to early symptoms of dehydration in order to prevent serious complications

Education

Dehydration can be prevented through the proper education of nursing home staff, family members and the patients themselves. If patients are aware of the importance of hydration, they will be more prone to drink more fluids and if the staff that cares for them know what signs to watch for, early detection of dehydration is possible in order to prevent serious conditions that can result. If the family is aware of the dangerous of dehydration, family members will also be able to notice any signs of improper hydration and alert nursing home staff in order to address the problem.

Relationship Between Dehydration and Episodes of Nursing Home Negligence

Water is an essential part of life and is just as important as the oxygen that we breathe. By making sure that our loved ones are properly hydrated, we will add years to their lives and prevent illnesses and falls that are directly related to hydration. If you notice that your loved one exhibits signs of dehydration, be sure that nursing home staff are aware of the situation and investigate whether or not proper means are being met to ensure that your family member is being properly hydrated.

When dehydration has contributed to a medical complication, such as a bed sore, the nursing home patient can pursue a nursing home abuse lawsuit to help in providing for both the money needed for medical care and additional funds to compensate the individual for their intangible losses such as pain and suffering and disability.

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