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Dehydration in nursing homes: Signs and reasons

The human body is always losing water through using the bathroom, breathing and sweating. When the water that is naturally lost is not adequately replaced, dehydration can occur. Dehydration can cause a serious interruption in various body functions, and it can easily be serious or fatal in the elderly.

Hydration is important for all living creatures. However, knowing how to recognize the effects and the reasons for dehydration in a nursing home setting is important because it is a common sign of neglect.

What are the signs of dehydration?

There are a wide variety of symptoms that could indicate dehydration. The following are some of the most common signs to look for when you visit your loved one:

  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Decrease in urine output
  • Inability to sweat
  • Sunken eyes and cheeks
  • Low blood pressure
  • Elevated heart rate and breathing

In advanced stages, dehydration can result in delirium, confusion and irritability. In extreme cases, dehydration can result in seizures, brain swelling, kidney failure, coma and death. 

Why does dehydration occur in nursing homes?

Numerous reasons could explain why an elderly resident of a nursing home has become dehydrated. The first is because of their inability to communicate or recognize that they are becoming dehydrated. When a patient or resident is unable to speak due to a medical or mental condition, or perhaps a language barrier, the condition can worsen. 

Another reason that a resident may become dehydrated is inadequate supervision and care. When nursing homes are understaffed and overworked, the quality of patient care is often first to suffer. A resident becoming dehydrated can be a sign of abuse or neglect.

Nursing home neglect is never acceptable. If your loved one suffered an injury due to dehydration, find out more about what you can do to hold the facility accountable for its lapses.