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Dehydration and Malnutrition

According to a new study supported by the Commonwealth Fund, over half a million nursing home residents in the United States suffer from some degree of malnutrition or dehydration. For elderly patients whose health is already compromised, this can cause severe medical problems, aggravate existing ones, or ultimately kill residents. Unfortunately, this form of neglect is common throughout the industry.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

The American Medical Association defines dehydration as an excessive loss of body fluid resulting in rapid weight loss. This can total up to three percent of the individual’s body weight. It is typically caused by a decrease in fluid intake, illness, or side effects of certain medications. In nursing homes, patients often become dehydrated as a result of neglect. Too often, staff members forget to provide patients with enough fluids, which is compounded by the fact that some residents suffering cognitive impairment will not remember to drink as well. Staff members may often not be diligent about helping patients who cannot eat or drink themselves.

Dehydration can happen quickly and once it sets in, it can be lethal.  Additionally, dehydration can put patients at risk for a wide range of other medical issues, including kidney failure, a compromised immune system, aggravated dementia, bedsores, ulcers, electrolyte imbalances, pneumonia, and a range of infections.

The following are common signs of dehydration:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Dark Urine
  • Thirst
  • unresponsiveness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry skin
  • Flushed skin and/or red face
  • Dark colored urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Chills
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

If you’re concerned that a loved one is suffering from dehydration, a simple test for dehydration is called the skin turgor test.  If a person is properly hydrated, when you gently pinch the skin on the back of the hand for a few seconds it will quickly rebound back to the hand.  If an elderly person is dehydrated, it will take a few seconds to snap back.  It is a simple and easy way to test for dehydration.

Signs and Symptoms of Malnutrition

Malnutrition is another common form of neglect among nursing home residents. It is a dangerous condition that occurs when an individual does not eat enough food, or if the food lacks the appropriate amount of key nutrients. The following are some of the most common causes of malnutrition in nursing homes:

  • Staffing shortages: Feeding residents is an extremely important and time intensive task. When there is a shortage in staff, caregivers tend to be overworked and overwhelmed. Patients that require help eating may not receive the attention they need, which can lead to malnutrition. In addition, if a staff member is not paying attention to the particular patient’s nutritional needs, they could give the patient food that he or she should not be eating, which can cause serious problems, like choking to death.
  • Incorrect serving sizes: Nursing home residents are often given the wrong serving size, which can result in malnutrition. In addition, elderly patients often have dental problems which makes it difficult to eat certain foods. Elderly patients also tend to have less of an appetite as they age, and staff members do not always adequately monitor residents to ensure that they are eating enough.
  • Some patients are unable to feed themselves: Depending on the patient’s condition, some are physically unable to sit up without assistance, compromising their ability to eat without help. In some cases, the resident requires a feeding tube if he or she is unable to chew or swallow food. Unfortunately, hundreds of nursing home facilities are cited each year for feeding tubes problems, like not ensuring the right amount of food. In extreme cases, patients can develop life-threatening diseases like aspiration pneumonia.
  • Food quality. In order to boost profits, some nursing homes cut corners in the area of dietary, and serve cheap and poor quality food. In fact, many facilities are cited every year for cooking or storing foods improperly, for not properly heating the food, or for generally serving bland, unappetizing meals.
  • Depression: Over 30 percent of all nursing home residents suffer from depression, which can cause changes in appetite, including a complete refusal to eat. Medications can also cause a loss of appetite, as well as nausea and vomiting.

The following are common signs of malnutrition:

  • Weight loss
  • Pressure ulcers
  • Delusions
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Gums that are swollen or bleeding
  • Fragile bones
  • Muscle loss and weakness
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Dry skin
  • Tooth decay
  • Confusion

 

New Jersey Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers at Davis & Brusca, LLC Advocate for Victims of Dehydration and Malnutrition

If you or a loved one has suffered from malnutrition or dehydration while a resident at a nursing home, our nursing home abuse lawyers in New Jersey are on your side. At Davis & Brusca, LLC, our experienced and dedicated legal team will seek the maximum financial compensation you deserve if you believe that a loved one was the victim of any type of abuse or neglect. We will not stop until justice has been served. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 609-786-2540 or contact us online. Our offices are located in Princeton and Trenton, New Jersey, where we represent clients throughout the state.