Dehydration in the elderly can result from neglect

If you have a loved one living out their remaining years in a nursing home or extended care facility, it’s likely that you worry about the sufficiency of the care they are receiving.

You are right to be concerned, as you are potentially the only one in a position to speak up for them if they are being neglected or mistreated. But your loved one may not be intentionally harmed by their caregivers. There are insidious conditions that can shorten or reduce the quality of their lives that fly under the radar of health care providers who aren’t paying close enough attention.

One of those conditions is dehydration, which can affect the elderly most severely. It occurs whenever someone loses more fluid than they consume. Maintaining stable fluid levels keeps the body temperature regulated through perspiration. It also eliminates waste from the body and maintains blood pressure.

The consequences of dehydration are serious and include:

  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Decubitus ulcers
  • Death, usually within four days

There are several reasons why the elderly are especially susceptible to dehydration. Some of their medications may contain diuretics, causing fluid loss. Others may increase perspiration.

Frail elderly patients often experience a decrease in thirst. It may be difficult for them to navigate to get a drink, or they may be totally reliant on caregivers to offer fluids. Additionally, our kidney function decreases with age and makes it harder to conserve fluids. Factor in diarrhea and vomiting, and a dehydration crisis can quickly develop.

If your loved one experienced an adverse medical condition due to dehydration caused by neglect, you may have to seek legal representation for them if they are unable to do so for themselves.

Source: A Place for Mom, “Elderly Dehydration: Prevention & Treatment,” accessed Nov. 18, 2015