Dehydration and Malnutrition in Colorado Nursing Homes

Nursing home residents in Colorado rely on their caregivers to provide adequate nutrition and hydration to meet their needs. However, when staff members abuse or neglect patients, they can endure catastrophic dehydration and malnutrition, among other injuries.

Nursing Home Justice, led by attorney Mac Hester, is here to help you and your family recover dignity and hold liable parties accountable. Our compassionate advocacy can help you bring your abuser and other at-fault parties to justice while recovering fair compensation.

Contact a nursing home injury lawyer at (303) 775-8128 to start your case.

How Common is Dehydration & Malnutrition in Nursing Homes?

In 1987, the Nursing Home Reform Act began requiring that nursing home facilities meet patients’ nutrition and hydration needs. However, despite these federal laws, at least 1/3 of more than 1.6 million nursing home residents across the United States have suffered from dehydration or malnutrition.

Some studies have reported that as much as 85% of elderly residents living in nursing homes across the country are malnourished. Furthermore, as much as 50% of nursing home residents have been reported as being underweight – a sign of dehydration and malnutrition.

What is Dehydration & Malnutrition?

Dehydration and malnutrition are often used interchangeably but mean different things. Malnutrition occurs when a nursing home resident does not have the adequate nutrition levels needed to keep their body healthy. Dehydration refers to nursing home residents not taking in enough fluids to keep their hydration levels up.

Who’s At Risk for Dehydration & Malnutrition?

Nursing home residents rely on their caregivers to provide them with their most basic needs. This includes eating and drinking. If a patient is being abused or neglected, they can suffer malnourishment or dehydration.

Some of the more common residents at risk for suffering from dehydration or malnutrition include:

  • Residents with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive impairments
  • Residents with diabetes
  • Residents with mouth sores or poorly fitting dentures
  • Residents with tremors
  • Residents taking laxatives, antidepressants, or diuretics
  • Residents taking medications that cause food interactions
  • Residents who experience side effects from their medications
  • Residents who have suffered a stroke
  • Residents who experience repeated infections

How Much Food & Water Should Residents Receive Daily?

Despite there being residents more at risk than others for dehydration and malnutrition, everyone should receive adequate food and water intake. Additionally, each patient’s condition should be considered in their nutrition plan.

All residents should take in a minimum of 2 liters of fluid per day for men and 1.6 liters per day for women. They should also eat at least three meals a day.

When nursing home residents are unable to take in adequate nutrition or fluids, hydration drops (bite-sized sugar-free sweets that are 95% water and contain electrolytes) may help them take in enough water, electrolytes, trace minerals, and vitamins to avoid malnutrition, dehydration, and hospitalization.

What Are The Risks of Dehydration & Malnutrition?

Dehydration and malnutrition come with severe risks. The symptoms associated with these medical conditions have been known to cause severe injuries and illnesses, some of which include:

  • Seizures
  • Kidney failure
  • Low blood volume
  • Immobility
  • Worsening of existing conditions
  • Pneumonia
  • Falls
  • Pressure ulcers
  • A weakened immune system
  • Death

What Are The Stages of Dehydration?

Most physicians will categorize dehydration into three stages known as mild dehydration, moderate dehydration, and severe dehydration. In most cases, mild and moderate dehydration are reversible.

However, severe dehydration could cause permanent damage. Once you lose between 5% and 6% of your fluid volume, you may enter the stages of dehydration as follows:

  • Mild dehydration – You have lost approximately 6% of your body fluid and may experience dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and a general slowdown.
  • Moderate dehydration -With moderate dehydration, you have lost approximately 10% of your body fluid and may experience dry skin, low blood pressure, reduced urine output, and other symptoms.
  • Severe dehydration – Anything over 10% of your lost body fluid is considered severe dehydration. You can succumb to seizures, pass out, and even die from severe dehydration.

Warning Signs of Dehydration & Malnutrition

If you suspect that you are suffering from malnutrition or dehydration, or if someone you love may be enduring these conditions, there are several warning signs you should be aware of. Some of these include:

  • Dry skin
  • Thirstiness
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Hypotension
  • Confusion
  • Urine changes
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen arms and lower legs
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pale skin
  • Unhealed wounds
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Stroke

Common Causes of Dehydration & Malnutrition

To reduce the number of instances of dehydration and malnutrition in nursing home facilities, we must first understand how patients are developing these medical conditions.

Some of the more common contributing factors to malnutrition and dehydration in nursing home residents include:

  • Inadequate attention from nursing home staff
  • Understaffed nursing home facilities
  • Lack of individualized care
  • Inexperienced nursing home staff
  • Relying on liquid supplements for nutrition
  • Providing patients with unappetizing food or drink
  • Failure to administer tube feedings
  • Keeping beverages and supplements out of patient reach
  • Failure to help patients open beverages, feed themselves, or drink fluids

What Compensation Can You Recover?

Nursing home residents diagnosed with malnutrition or dehydration may be entitled to financial compensation from those responsible for the abuse or neglect. Some of the more common types of damages you could recover in your nursing home abuse claim include:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Medical expenses and equipment fees
  • Caregiver expenses
  • Disfigurement and skin scarring

Wrongful Death

If you lost a loved one due to dehydration or malnutrition brought on by their nursing home facility, your family may have the opportunity to pursue a wrongful death claim against those responsible. Damages you could recover in your wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Loss of financial support that the decedent would have provided to the surviving spouse, heirs, or designated beneficiary (if the decedent was a rehab patient who was going to return to work)
  • Burial and funeral expenses
  • Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, grief, and loss of companionship