Compassionate Attorneys Fighting for Malnourished and Dehydrated Florida Nursing Home Residents
Malnourishment and dehydration have been acknowledged as serious problems within nursing homes for decades. Studies have cited that as many as 85% of nursing home patients suffer from malnourishment, while nearly all patients suffer from some degree of dehydration. Malnourishment and dehydration arise from a deficient diet and liquid intake. Malnourishment and dehydration drastically decrease a patient’s quality of life and increase a patient’s risk of death. Dehydration and malnutrition can result in an emergency hospital visit and even wrongful death. It is the nursing home’s responsibility to ensure that its residents are receiving appropriate nutrition and hydration. If you fear that your loved one was neglected by a nursing home and was injured or killed due to dehydration or malnutrition, call our nursing home abuse lawyers now for your free consultation at 1-888-375-9998.
Signs and Symptoms of Malnourishment in Nursing Home Residents
The most apparent sign of malnourishment is weight loss. However, there are several other signs and symptoms that arise when a patient does not receive the proper diet. These include:
- Prolonged fatigue, sometimes to the point of becoming bedridden
- Bedsores from becoming bedridden
- Delayed wound healing
- Bloated abdomen
- Thrush within the mouth
- Bleeding and swollen gums
- Swollen corneas
- Inability to keep warm
- Depression and apathy
- Sunken in cheeks with cachexia like appearance
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
Dehydration is a serious condition that should be corrected as soon as it is suspected. Patients who become dehydrated will experience the following:
- Nagging thirst
- Dry mouth
- Pale skin that is dry to the touch (no sweating)
- Decreased urine output and urine that is dark
- Rapid breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Confusion and irritability
Causes for Malnourishment and Dehydration:
Nursing Home Neglect
Malnourishment and dehydration can be caused by a patient’s underlying conditions as well as the medications they take. Patients who suffer from the conditions listed below commonly experience difficulties with eating or drinking. In addition, certain medications are known to cause nausea or loss of appetite.
- Cognitive impairment such as dementia or Alzheimer’s
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) due to stroke, Parkinson’s, or other diseases
- Tooth decay or other problems with oral health such as ill-fitting dentures
It is important to note that all of the health conditions listed above can be properly treated without causing malnourishment or dehydration. Of course, doing so requires close monitoring and support from nursing home staff. The importance of closely monitoring and supporting individual patients leads us to analyze the issues of inadequate staffing and training of nursing assistants.
Malnourishment and dehydration are typically caused by issues with the nursing home and its management. These issues include inadequate staffing and a lack of qualified, caring nursing assistants (CNAs). Inadequate staffing at nursing homes causes malnourishment and dehydration because it limits a caretaker’s ability to assist patients with eating and drinking. Ideally, a single caretaker tends to two to three patients at mealtimes. However, studies have shown that inadequate staffing at nursing homes can lead to as many as fifteen patients being assigned to one caretaker. Not only are caretakers assigned too many patients, but they usually do not have adequate training or knowledge of their patients’ dietary needs. This leads to a lack of individualized caretaker attention, and the most vulnerable residents who need assistance with eating and drinking are often unable to get the nutrition they so desperately need.
Concerns for Nursing Home Patients
The majority of patients in nursing homes need help to eat and drink. For example, 60% – 70% of patients suffer from some sort of cognitive impairment that prevents them from feeding themselves. 40% – 60% of patients suffer from dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. All of these patients require a caretaker to assist them during mealtimes. Even patients who are able to feed themselves require a caretaker to monitor their intake and make sure the resident is not choking on their food.
Staff must constantly supervise and assess each patient’s dietary intake. Patients that become malnourished or dehydrated are less able to fight off infection or recover from illnesses. This is a serious problem for elderly patients, whose immune systems and overall health are already compromised by advanced age and underlying medical conditions. It is vital that the staff at nursing homes remain vigilant of the signs and symptoms of malnourishment and dehydration.
Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits Regarding Malnourishment and Dehydration
Nursing homes are required by law to meet their patient’s nutritional needs. Only two situations can legally prevent a nursing home from providing proper nutrition and hydration: a terminal disease process (such as terminal cancer) or the patient’s refusal to eat/drink. If a patient refuses to eat or drink, medical professionals are still obligated to determine and deal with the reason for the patient’s refusal. For example, a patient may refuse to eat or drink because of depression or religious beliefs. This could be rectified with the use of antidepressants or by offering more menu options. Two cases in which a nursing home was found liable for a patient’s malnutrition and subsequent death are described below.
In the first case, an elderly female patient was prescribed a medication that caused her to lose her appetite. The patient stopped eating and drinking, causing her to become weak and lethargic. She was eventually admitted to a hospital where she died of malnutrition and dehydration. In this dehydration wrongful death case, staff at the nursing home failed to observe the patient’s uneaten food or recognize her deteriorating symptoms. They failed to properly monitor her condition and continued to prescribe her the same medication. Her subsequent death was attributed to the neglect of the nursing home.
In the second case, an elderly man was admitted into a Florida nursing home. After only 63 days, the man died of malnutrition and complications from untreated bedsores. Investigations showed that the patient had lost over 30 pounds during his short term at the nursing home. In this case, staff at the nursing home failed to observe the patients drastic weight loss and take corrective measures. His subsequent death was attributed to the neglect of the nursing home.
Malnourishment and dehydration are common problems for nursing home patients. Nonetheless, medical staff and personnel are obligated to do everything in their power to mitigate and resolve cases of malnutrition. If you feel that a loved one’s deterioration was caused by malnourishment or dehydration and that the proper reactionary steps were not taken, please contact our office immediately. Our nursing home abuse law firm is here to help you and your family. Call for your free consultation now at 1-888-375-9998.
Burger S.G., Kayser-Jones G., and Bell J.P. “Malnutrition and Dehydration in Nursing Homes: Key Issues in Prevention and Treatment.” June 2000. http://www.commonwealthfund.org/usr_doc/burger_mal_386.pdf.
Jackson, Irving. “Nursing Home Neglect Lawsuit Results in $1.8M Jury Award.” November 30, 2012. http://www.aboutlawsuits.com/nursing-home-neglect-lawsuit-verdict-dahmer-37409/.
The Commonweath Fund. “Malnutrition and Dehydration Plague Nursing Home Residents.” June 7, 2000. http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/press-releases/2000/jun/malnutrition-and-dehydration-plague-nursing-home-residents.