Dehydration in the Elderly2017-04-18T16:44:40+00:00

Hydration is one of the most simple yet important ways that you can stay healthy. Not getting enough water can lead to several negative side effects. These effects range from minor to severe. For most people, staying hydrated is their responsibility. But, for those in nursing homes this is the responsibility of the nursing home staff. You can learn more about dehydration and what to do if it was caused by the neglect of a staff member here.

Dehydration

Dehydration is a result of an inadequate fluid supply in the body. This can occur when the amount of fluids released from the body are greater than the amount taken in. Water is lost from the body through everyday functions. These functions include urination, defecation, sweating, and even breathing. When all these functions get preformed without the consumption of fluids, dehydration can occur.

Causes and Signs

There are many other causes of dehydration in adults. Some of the most common include:

  • Excessive exercise. When one sweats a large amount without properly hydrating.
  • Fever, common in many illnesses.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Diabetes.
  • When one does not have access to food or water, such as a disabled person.
  • One who has the inability to drink, such as somebody in a coma or somebody who is on a respirator.
  • When no safe drinking water is available.
  • Severely damaged skin such as burns or mouth sores. Water gets lost through damaged skin.

There are signs to look for to know that somebody is dehydrated such as:

  • Increased thirst.
  • Dry mouth and swollen tongue.
  • Weakness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Heart palpitations – these can feel like the heart is pounding or beating rapidly.
  • Confusion.
  • Sluggishness.
  • Fainting.
  • Inability to sweat.
  • Decreased urine output.

Additionally, the color of urine can hint if an individual is dehydrated. The darker the urine, the more likely someone is to be dehydrated.

Emergency Situations

There are some instances that require immediate medical care. These situations lead to extreme dehydration and will need a doctor’s help. Examples include:

  • Increased or constant vomiting for more than one full day.
  • A fever of over 101 degrees.
  • Diarrhea for more than two consecutive days.
  • Large amount of weight loss.
  • Decreased urine production.
  • Confusion.
  • Weakness.

In emergency cases, an individual should be hospitalized. These situations can be potentially deadly if not property treated. They are:

  • Fever of higher than 103 degrees.
  • Extreme confusion.
  • Lethargy.
  • Severe headache.
  • Seizures.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Chest or abdominal pains.
  • Fainting.
  • No urination in the past 12 hours.

Treatment

When taken for an examination, a doctor will preform several tests. This will determine if the true cause of dehydration is more serious than the common causes. A doctor will take the person’s pulse and preform other common tests. They may also do a urinalysis to examine if there are any serious health problems causing dehydration. These health problems include diabetes, kidney problems, or liver problems. A doctor may also check the blood chemistries of the person suffering from dehydration. The doctor will most likely look for the amount of potassium and creatinine in the blood. A doctor may also take a complete blood count (CBC) if they suspect an infection.

If your loved one is experiencing dehydration, there are ways that the nursing home can help them. Things can be done to prevent hospitalization. These helpful home solutions include:

  • Giving the effected individual water to sip.
  • Giving the person Gatorade, ice pops or Pedialyte. All of these will help your loved one regain electrolytes.

Heat Exposure

If your loved one is suffering from heat exposure, the nursing home should take these steps to cool them down:

  • Remove excess clothing and loosen the clothing that remains on.
  • Try to keep them in an air conditioned environment.
  • Place a wet towel around the person.
  • If at all possible, use a mist bottle to spray lukewarm water on their skin.
  • Avoid exposing any of their skin to excessively cold items, such as ice packs or ice water. This will cause shivering which will cause body temperature to rise.

Dehydration in a nursing home could result from neglect or abuse. Dehydration in nursing home residents is often a result of not receiving enough fluids. It is the job of nursing home staff to watch for dehydration in their residents. This is especially important for those who can’t access or ingest fluids by themselves. If the resident can’t voice that they are thirsty, this could cause accidental dehydration. If you feel that your loved one is dehydrated, it is important to speak to nursing home staff. Also, if you suspect that your loved one’s situation could have been prevented by proper care, you should speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.