Dehydration and Malnutrition in Nursing Homes – What You Need to Know

Posted by PKSD New Mexico Law Firm on July 1, 2024 in Nursing Home Neglect

elderly woman left unattended with drinkWhen you place a loved one in a nursing home, you take for granted that he or she will receive quality care, including fluids and proper nutrition. Unfortunately, things like understaffing, neglect or deliberate abuse could lead to dehydration and malnutrition.

In today’s article from PKSD New Mexico, we talk about dehydration and malnutrition, including what the early signs are and how it can happen in a nursing home.

Our experienced Santa Fe nursing home abuse lawyers are dedicated to protecting residents living in long-term care. We help injured residents injured by nursing home neglect or abuse every day.

Request a FREE case review today. 505-677-7777

How Can Dehydration and Malnutrition Happen in a Nursing Home?

Families rightly expect that their loved ones will be properly cared for in their nursing homes. However, dehydration and malnutrition can occur in nursing homes due to several factors.

Understaffing – a Long-Term But Serious Issue

Understaffing is a longstanding and significant issue in many nursing homes. When there are not enough caregivers, residents may not get the necessary attention to ensure they eat and drink regularly. Overworked or thinly stretched staff may also not get around to each resident who needs help with feeding or drinking.

Inadequate Training of Staff

Inadequate training of nursing home staff is another serious long-term care issue that can affect residents’ quality of care. Caregivers might not recognize the signs of dehydration or malnutrition or know how to address these problems properly. Additionally, certain medical conditions, like dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), can make it hard for some residents to eat or drink anything. These individuals need special care that might not be provided.

Food is Unappetizing or Poor Quality

Like all of us, residents want to enjoy their food. If the meals are unappetizing or lack nutritional value, residents may refuse to eat or drink enough.

Residents May Forget to Eat or Drink

Residents with cognitive impairments, such as dementia, might forget to eat or drink on their own. These individuals need reminders and help from staff to ensure they get enough food and fluids to keep them healthy.

Deliberate Neglect or Abuse

Lastly, neglect or abuse can directly result in dehydration and malnutrition. If caregivers deliberately withhold food or water, or if they neglect residents’ basic needs, these dangerous conditions can arise.

Preventing dehydration and malnutrition in nursing homes requires adequate staffing, proper training, attentive care, and high-quality food and beverages. Families should monitor their loved ones’ well-being and advocate for proper care to avoid these serious health issues.

What Intentional Acts Could Cause Dehydration and Malnutrition?

Staffing shortages create a higher risk of nursing home neglect or abuse. Some caregivers may deliberately neglect or abuse residents. These acts, whether intentional or not, can cause residents to suffer serious or fatal harm and may include:

  • Deliberately and routinely withholding food and drink to punish or intimidate a resident
  • Failing to provide assistance to residents who cannot eat or drink without help
  • Not properly monitoring residents who cannot properly swallow on their own
  • Failing to ensure residents with dementia and other memory problems eat and drink
  • Failing to train nursing home staff on how to spot the signs of dehydration and malnutrition
  • Not properly monitoring residents impacted by substance or alcohol abuse addictions
  • Failing to pay attention to residents’ dietary restrictions or specific eating issues (like an inability to chew)

These actions or inactions could result in causing serious or fatal harm to residents, including dehydration and malnutrition.

How Can I Help Protect My Loved One From Dehydration and Malnutrition?

Understanding the early signs or symptoms that may indicate dehydration and malnutrition could help you to catch when something is wrong early on. Visiting your loved one could help reduce the risk of this happening. If you do not live close enough to visit as often as you would like, you could install a granny cam in your loved one’s room. Surveillance cameras are legal in New Mexico, but there are some things you need to know before installing one.

What Are the Signs of Dehydration and Malnutrition?

The best way to protect your loved one from dehydration and malnutrition is to get familiar with the signs and take immediate action.

Signs of Dehydration Include:

  • Dry Mouth and Lips: Persistent dryness can indicate a lack of adequate fluids.
  • Sunken Eyes: This is a visible sign of severe dehydration.
  • Dark Urine or Reduced Urination: These symptoms suggest insufficient fluid intake.
  • Confusion or Irritability: Dehydration can affect cognitive function and mood.
  • Weakness or Dizziness: Lack of fluids can lead to overall weakness and dizziness.

Malnutrition Signs:

  • Weight Loss: Unexplained or rapid weight loss can be a significant indicator of malnutrition.
  • Fatigue: Persistent tiredness or lack of energy may result from insufficient nutrients.
  • Poor Skin Condition: Dry, flaky skin or sores that heal slowly can indicate poor nutrition.
  • Hair Loss or Brittle Hair: Nutrient deficiencies often affect hair health.
  • Reduced Muscle Mass: Noticeable muscle wasting or a decrease in muscle strength.

There are some other behavioral signs to watch for that may indicate something is wrong. For instance, your loved one may either have a decreased appetite our outright refuse to eat. Sometimes depression and other emotional trauma may cause some elderly residents to not want to eat. If your loved one is already suffering from malnutrition, he or she may have frequent infections.

What Can I Do If I Suspect Dehydration and Malnutrition?

If you suspect your loved one is dehydrated or suffering from malnutrition, you need to get them medical help right away. If the nursing home is responsive, you can request a health assessment. However, if you have concerns your loved one is in immediate danger, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Why Seek Legal Help for Dehydration and Malnutrition in a Nursing Home?

If your loved one suffered dehydration and malnutrition due to understaffing, neglect or abuse, you may be eligible to recover compensation for their medical costs and other damages.

Our legal team in Santa Fe can help protect your interests and legal rights. We are prepared to speak with the medical professionals who treated your loved one. Our firm can also investigate the nursing home to determine what actions or inactions may have led to dehydration or malnutrition.

We have decades of experience getting favorable outcomes, recovering millions in compensation for our clients. These results include a $2 million settlement for a case of harm caused by nursing home understaffing.

Deadlines apply in New Mexico, and your attorney needs time to investigate your situation and build a strong case on your behalf. We strongly recommend calling sooner than later. There are no upfront costs and no fees to pay throughout the legal process. We only get paid if you do.

PKSD New Mexico. We are here to help you. 505-677-7777

Back to top