The Effects of Dehydration on Nursing Home Residents
The health consequences of dehydration can be quite severe, ranging from coma to organ failure to death. Nursing home staff can help patients avoid most of these consequences, and dehydration itself, through proper staffing, individualized care and ongoing monitoring. Unfortunately, many nursing homes fail at providing this level of care, either due to budgetary constraints or base neglect.
Common Complications of Dehydration
Elderly individuals suffering from dehydration are susceptible to numerous health complications:
- Altered mental status: Electrolyte deficiencies and low fluid levels greatly affect an elderly individual’s mental status and can result in lethargy or even a coma.
- Seizures: Dehydration puts a great strain on the central nervous system and muscles, which can lead to seizures.
- Susceptibility to infections: Low fluid levels cause the immune system to function poorly, resulting in a greater likelihood of contracting illnesses and infections.
- Skin breakdown: Bed sores plague dehydrated nursing home residents due to the body’s inability to heal and fight off infection.
- Organ failure: Dehydration causes a drop in blood pressure, decreasing blood flow to the kidneys, lungs, heart and other organs. This can lead to kidney failure, respiratory failure and heart attacks.
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With quick and proper action on the part of your loved one’s nursing staff, it is possible to reverse many of the negative effects of dehydration. However, your loved one should never need such care. Instead, his or her care providers should take every step possible to avoid dehydration in the first place, and react accordingly should the first signs of dehydration appear. Failure to do so means you may have grounds for a nursing home neglect or abuse case.
Dehydration Can Lead to Death
Elderly individuals suffering from extreme dehydration have higher morbidity and mortality rates than their peers. If left untreated, such water deprivation will lead to congestive heart failure and wrongful death. For this reason, it is extremely important that you become familiar with the warning signs of dehydration and that you hold the nursing home staff to high standards of care. Make sure you take quick action if you find at any time that your loved one is not getting the level of care he or she needs and deserves.
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