According to a new study supported by the Commonwealth Fund, over half a million nursing home residents in the United States suffer from some degree of malnutrition or dehydration. For elderly patients whose health is already compromised, this can cause severe medical problems, aggravate existing ones, or ultimately kill residents. Unfortunately, this form of neglect is common throughout the industry.
The American Medical Association defines dehydration as an excessive loss of body fluid resulting in rapid weight loss. This can total up to three percent of the individual’s body weight. It is typically caused by a decrease in fluid intake, illness, or side effects of certain medications. In nursing homes, patients often become dehydrated as a result of neglect. Too often, staff members forget to provide patients with enough fluids, which is compounded by the fact that some residents suffering cognitive impairment will not remember to drink as well. Staff members may often not be diligent about helping patients who cannot eat or drink themselves.
Dehydration can happen quickly and once it sets in, it can be lethal. Additionally, dehydration can put patients at risk for a wide range of other medical issues, including kidney failure, a compromised immune system, aggravated dementia, bedsores, ulcers, electrolyte imbalances, pneumonia, and a range of infections.
The following are common signs of dehydration:
If you’re concerned that a loved one is suffering from dehydration, a simple test for dehydration is called the skin turgor test. If a person is properly hydrated, when you gently pinch the skin on the back of the hand for a few seconds it will quickly rebound back to the hand. If an elderly person is dehydrated, it will take a few seconds to snap back. It is a simple and easy way to test for dehydration.
Malnutrition is another common form of neglect among nursing home residents. It is a dangerous condition that occurs when an individual does not eat enough food, or if the food lacks the appropriate amount of key nutrients. The following are some of the most common causes of malnutrition in nursing homes:
The following are common signs of malnutrition:
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