Patients in nursing homes are often entirely dependent on care staff to maintain their health and provide for their needs, even simple needs like drinking enough water. One common result of the failure to receive proper care in a nursing home is dehydration, and severe dehydration can lead to death.
The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that seniors in nursing homes, care homes, and assisted-living facilities frequently experience neglect or abuse. In one study, as many as 95% of residents said they experienced neglect or saw another resident neglected, and 44% claimed abuse.
There is a high risk of dehydration death in nursing homes, but facilities and their care staff have a responsibility to prevent these deaths through proper care and nutrition. If you think your loved one died from dehydration in a nursing home, a lawyer can help you pursue justice.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Dehydration is the medical term for when a person’s body does not have the water or fluids that it needs. While mild dehydration can be common, severe dehydration is a life-threatening condition. According to MedlinePlus, older adults have a more significant risk of dehydration than other people. Symptoms of severe dehydration include:
- Irritability and confusion
- Dry, shriveled skin
- Lack of urination or very dark-colored urine
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Lack of blood flow
- Kidney failure
- Brain swelling or brain damage
- Urinary tract infections
If severe dehydration goes untreated, it will ultimately result in death. The treatment for dehydration is the intake of fluids.
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Risks of Dehydration in Nursing Homes
The possibility of a nursing home resident dying from dehydration is much higher than in the general population. Reuters reports that patients in nursing homes are more than five times more likely to suffer from dehydration than others.
While a lack of drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, common causes and risk factors also include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, excessive sweating, and excessive urination. Patients in nursing homes are at a higher risk for severe dehydration because:
- As people age, their sense of thirst becomes less acute, their ability to conserve water is decreased, and their fluid reserve is smaller.
- The similarity of some dehydration symptoms with symptoms of age, such as confusion and dry skin, can lead to nursing home staff failing to diagnose and treat dehydration properly.
- Elderly people may not be able to articulate the need for a drink due to difficulty speaking or challenges in interacting with facility staff.
- They may forget to drink water due to dementia or other cognitive impairment.
- They may not physically be able to drink without help.
- Some medications cause thirst or dehydration as a side effect.
- Diabetes, other kidney disorders, and some diseases carry a risk of dehydration.
- Staffing shortages at some nursing homes may prevent caregivers from providing enough fluids or providing them frequently enough.
The Difference Between Neglect and Abuse
If you believe your loved one’s death from dehydration in a nursing home was unjust, it may be neglect or abuse. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care explains the difference between neglect and abuse:
- Neglect is the failure to provide care that prevents harm or the failure to react to a situation that causes harm or pain to someone. Neglect can be unintentional, such as the result of improper training of care staff. It can also be intentional if someone purposely fails to provide the standard of care, such as ignoring requests for water or calls for help.
- Abuse is always intentional. When a person purposely causes pain or harm to another, this is abuse. There are many types of abuse, such as physical, mental, verbal, psychological, etc. Purposely withholding necessary water or other nutrition from a patient is abuse.
If you think your loved one died from dehydration in a nursing home because of neglect or abuse, the team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC, is here to help you. Pursuing justice on their behalf may help to bring you closure and prevent other dehydration deaths in nursing homes from happening. You may be legally entitled to receive compensation for a death caused by neglect or abuse in a nursing home.
Our team can aim to prove neglect or abuse by gathering evidence such as medical records, coroner reports, and eyewitness statements. We can find and interview care staff and speak to medical experts. We will file a lawsuit on your behalf and manage the necessary communication between all parties so that you can grieve and recover from your loss, knowing that we will do everything we can to obtain justice for you.
Call 800-959-1444 today to schedule a free consultation at Ben Crump Law, PLLC. Since we work on a contingency fee basis, you will not owe us anything unless we can help you recover compensation for your loved one’s neglect or abuse.