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Dehydration and the elderly

Nursing homes and their employees carry a heavy responsibility: caring for our beloved elderly relatives. Many institutions take on this duty with zeal and provide a safe, comfortable home where residents can receive the medical attention they need. However, there are still too many nursing homes and nursing home employees who fail to live up to the standard of care they owe to their residents. When this happens, tragic outcomes can befall unsuspecting residents, leaving them and their families forever changed.

One common way that nursing home neglect occurs is via dehydration. Nursing home staff need to closely monitor their residents to ensure that they are receiving enough fluid. This is critical for several reasons. First, as an individual ages, his ability to conserve and retain water is diminished. Second, an elderly individual's sense of thirst is not as sharp as it once was. Third, an aging individual's ability to respond to temperature changes is lessened. Also, elderly individuals are inclined to eat and drink less than their younger counterparts, thus requiring close attention by nursing home staff.

Failing to keep a nursing home resident hydrated can lead to devastating consequences. Dehydration can lead to swelling of the brain, seizures, kidney failure, coma and even death. Those who are fortunate enough to survive one of these events may still suffer from a worsened health condition and the victim and his or her family may be forced to incur significant medical expenses.

In an attempt to hold negligent parties accountable, victims and their families may be able to file a nursing home neglect lawsuit. A claim that succeeds may bring much needed compensation while at the same time punish those who were errant in their duties. Hopefully such action will force nursing homes and their employees to keep a closer eye on those who need it most.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Dehydration," accessed on Dec. 6, 2015

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