Malnutrition and dehydration can lead to a number of serious health problems. Examples include infection, confusion, and weight loss. Federal law requires nursing homes to assess the nutritional status of residents.

When an elderly person in a nursing becomes malnourished or dehydrated it is generally because of certain physical and psychological factors. These factors can include certain mental changes, disturbances and/or sleeplessness; depression and loneliness; food and drug combinations and relations that decrease a persons’ ability to absorb vitamins and minerals; problems with swallowing and other mouth problems; lung disease, kidney disease and congestive heart failure; and certain side effects from medications include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Other causes of malnutrition and dehydration in nursing homes can include staffing issues, including inadequate staff and inadequate attention and inadequate staff education in caring for the elderly.

The following are signs that your family member or loved one is suffering from dehydration or malnutrition:

  • Losing weight
  • Clothes fit more loosely than usual
  • Dry, cracked lips or a pale–looking mouth
  • Difficulty speaking due to a dry mouth
  • Complaints about thirst
  • Urinates infrequently and has dark yellow urine
  • Skin feels dry and warm to the touch
  • A dry, bright red, and furrowed tongue
  • Complains about any problems relating to the mouth
  • Thinning hair or hair that is growing sparser
  • Wounds or bed sores that seem to take longer to heal or are developing more often
  • Appears weak or disoriented
  • Skin is breaking down or seems loose and looks or feels drier than usual

When you notice any of these symptoms, you should immediately request a care–planning conference in which these issues can be discussed with the staff at the nursing home. Demand that the staff develop a hydration and nutrition program with the help of a nutritionist. Figure out together what is causing the problem. It can be anything from staffing issues to depression to mouth issues to certain chronic illnesses.

Once a cause is determined and a plan is agreed upon, monitor your loved one to ensure that he or she is getting the appropriate nutrition and hydration. Ask the attending doctor to do the same. Attend a subsequent care–plan conference to follow up on the progress. If all of this does not work, get your family member into a different nursing home and contact Ed Fox & Associates, Ltd..

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