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What to know about dehydration and malnutrition in seniors

Nursing home residents count on the people who work at the nursing home to provide them with life's necessities. When these caregivers fail to provide adequate food and water, residents can suffer. Malnutrition and dehydration are serious issues in nursing homes that can severely impact the elderly. 

What happens when a person is dehydrated?

When a person becomes dehydrated, there are a number of symptoms that may arise including:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Bedsores
  • Death

Nursing home residents must be monitored closely for malnutrition and dehydration

Nursing home residents are at risk of malnutrition and dehydration because their bodies are slowing down. They might not feel hungry or thirsty even though they need food and water. Nursing homes should monitor residents for signs of malnutrition and dehydration.

Medications can affect appetite and hydration

Some medications can cause stomach irritation. These include psychotropics, aspirin and a host of other drugs. This can make it uncomfortable for a resident to eat. Other drugs, such as antihistamines, might contribute to dehydration.

Changes in appetite and taste can contribute

As people age, their taste buds can change. Foods that were once enjoyable might not be now. Elderly residents might not have much of an appetite, which can lead to them eating smaller portions than what they need to sustain themselves.

Mobility problems can make it difficult to eat and drink

Mobility issues, including difficulty walking to the cafeteria or getting the food to the mouth, can make it hard for a person to get proper nutrition. Nursing home caregivers might have to help residents eat and drink, especially at mealtimes.

Malnutrition and dehydration can lead to lasting health issues

Lasting health issues can occur when a nursing home resident is malnourished or dehydrated. Dental health issues, depression and cognitive health decline are all possible. Malnutrition and dehydration can also lead to muscle spasms, bladder infections and constipation.

    Memory problems can make it hard to remember to eat and drink

    Many nursing home residents have problems with memory. This decline can make it difficult for them to remember when they ate or drank last. Monitoring nursing home residents can help to minimize the risk of memory issues leading to dehydration or malnutrition.

    Health complications can make it difficult to eat and drink

    Some health issues, such as poorly fitting dentures or oral health concerns, might make it difficult to eat and drink. Stroke victims might have trouble feeding themselves if the stroke left the dominant side of the body weak.

    When does malnutrition count as abuse?

    Many nursing home residents need assistance when eating and drinking. If they do not receive this assistance, it could be classed as abuse or neglect. Residents will likely be suffering and in distress if they are malnourished and dehydrated.

    Malnutrition epidemics can occur in assisted living facilities where staff are uneducated on the importance of assistive care. They may also be more common when a facility is understaffed since workers will not have enough time to tend to the needs of all residents.

    Compensation might be possible

    Nursing home residents rely on caregivers to provide for them. When malnutrition or dehydration is due to negligence or abuse, the resident and his or her family might choose to seek compensation for damages. This might include the cost of medical care and the inability to fully enjoy life like they did prior to the incident.

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