Dehydration in nursing homes: What you should know

Almost everybody knows that it’s important to stay hydrated. What about folks who can’t recognize their own needs due to dementia or other cognitive disorders?

This is a common problem for the elderly, and they may end up suffering serious health problems when their caregivers don’t pay enough attention.

What are the symptoms of dehydration?

A senior with cognitive issues may not notice the two most common signs of dehydration: thirst and dark urine. Instead, they may have the following symptoms (most of which are related to the reduced blood volume and electrolyte imbalances that dehydration causes):

  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Falling blood pressure
  • No sweat despite being warm
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble speaking
  • Dry mouth
  • Weakness
  • Shriveled skin
  • Sunken eyes

How can these problems go unnoticed in a nursing home? In general, it comes down to three basic issues:

  • Poor care planning, where the patient’s needs are not carefully assessed or communicated to their primary caregivers
  • Poorly trained staff, which means that they simply aren’t educated about the signs of dehydration in seniors
  • Poor staffing, which means that the facility isn’t keeping enough health aides and nurses on the floor at any given point

A single instance of dehydration that doesn’t lead to irreparable harm is something that you need to address with your loved one’s caregivers right away. Repeat incidents could indicate nursing home neglect — and a hospitalization due to dehydration should definitely alarm you.

Ultimately, if you suspect nursing home neglect due to dehydration, it’s often wisest to learn more about your legal options. That may be the only way to protect those you love.