Dehydration is a real health concern for many elderly people. It can occur when people don’t consume as much water as their bodies need to function properly, and can lead to serious and potentially fatal conditions.
Elderly people, even if they live at home, often don’t drink enough for a number of reasons. As people get older, they don’t get as thirsty as they used to. If they have mobility issues, going to the kitchen for a glass of water may not seem worth the effort. Those extra glasses of water mean more trips to the bathroom, which they’d rather avoid. Some medications and health conditions can also contribute to dehydration.
However, people in nursing homes can be at particular risk of dehydration if they’re not receiving the care and attention they need. They may be dependent on staff to ensure that they’re getting enough to drink and encouraging them to drink even when they don’t feel like it.
If staff members are overworked or just plain negligent, patients can be deprived of necessary hydration. Some nursing home staff don’t encourage fluid consumption because they’re concerned about people wetting the bed.
Patients may hesitate to get up and get a drink themselves because that requires assistance. If they do get a drink, what if no one’s around to help them to the restroom later?
What can family members do to help ensure that their loved ones in nursing homes are getting the hydration they need? One geriatrician says, “Families can be incredible eyes and ears.” She encourages people to visit their loved ones on a varying schedule to witness their care. Don’t always visit at the same time of day or the same day of the week.
Further, don’t hesitate to talk to the staff and management about what they’re doing to encourage your loved one to drink plenty of fluids even if they’re not thirsty. If they know it’s a priority for you and something you’re watching, they may pay closer attention.
If you believe that negligence or intentional withholding of liquids has contributed to your loved one’s dehydration, or if your loved one has fallen while trying to get a drink or get to the bathroom themselves because no one was available to assist them, you may be able to take legal action. An attorney experienced in handling nursing home abuse and neglect cases can provide valuable guidance.