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Dehydration in Nursing Home Abuse

bottled waterDehydration is a serious condition that can affect people of all ages. Fluids in your body are either in the cells, surrounding the cells or within your blood vessels. The fluid that surrounds the cells creates the environment within which the cells live. Many of the chemical reactions occurring in your body occur in water. Thus, water is vitally important to your body and your cells. Without adequate water, body fluids can become too concentrated, the chemicals in your blood can become unbalanced, cell and tissue damage can occur, blood volume and blood pressure can drop and the patient can go into shock, possibly leading to death.

Elderly people often have problems drinking enough fluids. They may forget to drink or they may have conditions that make it difficult for them to get up and get a glass of water. If they are in a wheelchair or are bed-ridden, they may be dependent upon another person to bring them water. In a nursing home, nurses and nurse’s aides may have too many patients and not be able to get around to everyone. Sometimes patients are ignored because of animosities that can develop between patient and staff. Although this should never happen, there are laws stating that every nursing home resident is entitled to adequate nutrition and hydration. To fail to see that patients have adequate water to drink is neglect.

How do you determine if someone is dehydrated?

The symptoms you should watch for include thirst, dry skin, elevated temperature, dry and sticky mouth, sunken-in eyes, light headedness and confusion, rapid heartbeat, and in severe cases, coma. One quick test to evaluate whether a patient is dehydrated is to pull up a fold of skin on the back of the hand, then let go and see how rapidly the skin returns to normal. If the wrinkles do not disappear rapidly it is an indication of possible dehydration. If this happens, make sure the patient has water and is encouraged to take frequent sips if they are able to do so. Alert the nurses and ask them to check and monitor the patient regularly. If the patient continues to appear dehydrated, request that a doctor be called and/or that the patient be admitted to an emergency room.

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