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Dehydration from negligent SC nursing home care

Despite long-term care facilities being heavily regulated under federal and South Carolina law, dehydration remains a common cause of injury and even death nursing homes.
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    February 01, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- In South Carolina and across the nation, stories of elder abuse and neglect in nursing homes are all too common. Despite long-term care facilities being heavily regulated under federal and South Carolina law, simple dehydration remains a common cause of injury and even death in the nursing home population.

Of course, keeping patients safely hydrated is a basic duty of caregivers and medical providers, and many people are startled to learn that this duty, tragically, is too frequently breached through nursing home negligence.

Dehydration 101

Very simply, dehydration is the fluid shortage when a body loses more water than it has coming back into it. Shockingly, A Place for Mom reports that a person can normally only survive for around four days without fluids.

Dehydration is often caused by vomiting, diarrhea, frequent urination or excessive sweating. In addition, low fluid levels cause the body to lose electrolytes like potassium and sodium, elements needed for normal cell functioning.

Mayo Clinic reports that mild to moderate dehydration may cause dry mouth, fatigue and dizziness, thirst, dry skin, headache, constipation, decreased urination and more. Mayo Clinic also lists several signs of dehydration that signal a medical emergency, including:
- Extreme manifestations of the symptoms listed for mild to moderate dehydration
- Confusion or irritability leading to "delirium or unconsciousness"
- Rapid breathing or heartbeat
- No urination or very dark urine
- Sunken eyes
- Fever
- Low blood pressure
- And more

Unfortunately, one serious sign that is not easy to see in elderly adults is that skin loses its elasticity, but the skin of senior patients is already likely more wrinkled and less toned than that of younger people.

Some of the more serious conditions that can develop from dehydration are brain swelling, seizures, shock, kidney failure, coma and death.

Dehydration in seniors

According to the Mayo Clinic, a younger adult can remedy mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids. In an elderly patient, however, even mild to moderate symptoms may signal a serious problem requiring quick medical attention such as intravenous hydration with electrolytes.

A senior citizen is more at risk for dehydration because an older body does not process fluids as well as it used to. In addition, some elderly people no longer feel thirsty. Nursing home patients may not be able to make important self-care decisions that ensure adequate fluid intake.

Other factors that can make them more prone to dehydration are medical problems like diabetes and certain medications like diuretics. The perfect storm for tragedy from dehydration is an elderly person unable to judge him or herself how much fluid to take in who is dependent on untrained, overworked, under-supervised or uncaring staff of a long-term care facility.

Nursing home responsibility

Nursing-home staff must vigilantly monitor the fluid levels of residents to see that they receive what they need to stay hydrated, as well as watching for symptoms of dehydration and responding quickly with medical intervention.

Nursing homes by law must provide reasonable medical and nutritional care to residents, who are dependent on staff for safe hydration. Patients not only get fluids through water, but also through other drinks and foods like soups and fruits. Facilities can establish hydration plans and protocols to help prevent patient dehydration.

Seek legal advice

Any South Carolinian who suspects that a long-term care facility negligently or recklessly allowed a loved one to become dehydrated, leading to injury or death, should contact an experienced South Carolina personal injury attorney to understand whether a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit may be appropriate.

Article provided by Christian & Davis, LLC
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