Nursing home negligence is the leading cause of dehydration cases of nursing home residents in the United States. What makes it so shocking about cases of dehydration is that it is such an easy condition to avoid, and yet dehydration still happens to a considerable amount of senior citizens each year. Due to their advanced age, older individuals are at a higher risk of becoming dehydrated than middle-aged adults, and those older individuals with diabetes are at an even higher risk. Since many nursing home residents are dependent upon nursing staff to provide adequate hydration, neglect and inadequate staffing levels in the home can exacerbate hydration issues.
Many health problems emerge as a result of dehydration, including dry mouth, dry skin, cracked lips, dark urine and fatigue, but more serious problems can result as well, such as organ failure, coma and even death. Failure of the renal system, or kidneys, is commonly found in those who have suffered, and died, from dehydration.
Function of the Kidneys
One of the primary functions of the kidneys is to remove waste products from the blood through the urine. If the renal system shuts down unexpectedly, waste and toxins accumulate in the blood, urine production stops or slows considerably, and the person becomes extremely ill and could even die. The kidneys are also responsible for managing the balance of electrolytes and salts in the blood, and when the renal system fails, electrolytes and fluid buildup in the body, causing swelling. In the most severe cases of renal failure, the body will actually begin to weep fluid through the skin, making it appear like the affected person is leaking. When these conditions persist for too long, the body shuts down the renal system and the affected person dies.
Prerenal failure is a loss of kidney function caused by a sudden reduction of blood flow to the renal system. The affected kidney may still function, but inadequate blood flow for the kidneys to operate properly characterizes prerenal failure. The reduced flow can be the result of dehydration. This condition is reversible with the immediate administration of fluids and electrolytes, since no damage may have yet been done to the kidney organs. However, untreated prerenal failure develops into acute kidney failure.
Acute Kidney Failure
Dehydration for an extended period of time can cause damage to the kidneys that prevents the kidneys from functioning properly, resulting in acute renal failure. Acute renal failure, also sometimes referred to as acute kidney injury, is the clinical term for when the kidneys suddenly cease to function. When the dehydrated condition is this severe, sometimes not even corrective action and dialysis is enough to save the person’s life. However, the immediate administration of intravenous electrolytes and fluids, in conjunction with permanent dialysis, could prolong life; the damage sustained by the kidneys is often so severe though that dialysis is the only way the person can survive.
It is important that nursing home staff take precautions to prevent dehydration, and that they continuously monitor residents for signs of dehydration. If you are worried about a loved one living in an Illinois nursing home and suffering from dehydration at the hands of nursing home staff, please contact the Rooth Law Firm online or by phone at 877-356-3007 to discuss your concerns.