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Nov 5, 2014 by |

Dehydration is Elder Abuse

The  San Francisco elder abuse lawyers at Evans Law have learned that dehydration is becoming a huge problem in nursing homes in California and across the country. Although dehydration is a health risk for everyone, older people are especially susceptible even more so when they are unable to provide their own nourishment and hydration, as in the case of many nursing home residents. Senior citizens are also less likely to feel thirsty as they age because their sense of thirst and hydration needs are diminished.

What is Dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when a person loses more water than he or she is drinking throughout the day. People need a specific amount of water in order to function, and without a proper source of nutrients and fluid, dehydration will set in, causing serious health complications. When a person is dehydrated, he or she has lost necessary electrolytes and may not be able to fight off sickness or weakness, which could further complicate an existing health issue.

Health Complications and Prevention

Unfortunately,  our San Francisco elder abuse lawyers know that even a mild case of dehydration can be fatal to a senior citizen. Dehydration can cause cardiac problems or renal failure and can put a person at increased risk for bed sores and pressure sores, UTIs, pneumonia and other potentially fatal medical issues. Dehydration can also affect a person’s ability to think rationally and coherently and can cause confusion, forgetfulness, and other mental impairments.

One of the major complications associated with dehydration is hypernatremia, which occurs when a person loses electrolytes based on one’s total body water in relation to the body’s sodium levels. When a person takes in less water than he or she loses and cannot balance out the sodium, he or she is at risk for hypernatremia, which can cause the person’s organs to fail.

Nursing homes should be on guard for dehydration in all residents, especially those who have trouble performing daily functions such as eating and drinking. Prevention is the most effective way to handle dehydration risks, and nursing home doctors, aides and nurses must be attuned to their residents’ needs to ensure they provide the necessary daily doses of fluids and liquids. When an older person is unable to get water for himself, he must rely on the caretakers around him to accurately assess his thirst and bring him liquids. Once a person is dehydrated, medical attention should be provided to bring electrolyte levels up and restore the levels of water within the body. Gatorade, soup and broth are all effective in quickly fighting dehydration.

Signs that an older loved one may be suffering from dehydration include dizziness, confusion, inattention, or fatigue—all of which are also typically attributed with getting older. Caretakers and family members should remain watchful for evidence that a senior is getting enough fluids.

At the Evans Law Firm, our San Francisco elder abuse lawyers represent older people who have been abused through neglect in a nursing home, including neglect that led to dehydration or other health risks. To discuss your case, call 415.441.8669 today.

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