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Is dehydration a sign of elder abuse?

Elderly dementia patients can easily end up suffering from a common, preventable problem: dehydration -- especially if they don't remember to drink enough fluids.

But is that really elder abuse or nursing home neglect? Absolutely.

There may be several combined causes behind the dehydration:

-- A lack of observation. Water bottles should be checked on a schedule, in all seasons, and the support staff member responsible for refilling the patients' water jugs should always take the time to record how much water has been used out of the jug. If the patient isn't drinking enough fluids, a nurse or doctor needs to be alerted promptly.

-- A shortage of support persons. Nursing homes often have inadequate support personnel to give patients the care they need. If a patient can't hold his or her own cup or water jug or can't remember to drink, someone needs to assist him or her regularly in order to prevent dehydration.

-- Insufficient training. Many of the support persons who are there may lack the training necessary to recognize the signs of dehydration or even realize how serious the condition can become.

What can result from chronic dehydration?

The short-term symptoms of dehydration include things most people are familiar with: dry skin, thirst, a lack of urination and a dry mouth.

However, severe dehydration can quickly result in terrible complications for the elderly patient:

-- Kidney failure is a common result of dehydration because your kidneys will not function without adequate fluid intake. After a while, they'll simply shut down. This can cause all the fluid in the person's body, along with waste materials, to back up -- eventually leading to death.

-- Seizures and swelling of the brain are also common symptoms of severe dehydration. If the patient's electrolytes are out of balance from a lack of fluids, it can cause involuntary muscle contractions. Swelling of the brain can also lead to seizure-like movements, along with confusion and even brain damage.

-- Low blood pressure is a reaction most people don't associate with dehydration, but it's both common and serious. Without enough fluids, the patient's blood volume decreases, causing one's blood pressure to sharply dip.

If you believe your loved one has been injured in a nursing home due to a lack of proper hydration, don't wait -- contact an attorney today.

Source: ConsumerDangers.Com, "Dehydration and the Elderly," accessed April 24, 2017

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