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Malnutrition and Dehydration in Nursing Homes Rivals the Third World

Garcia & Artigliere

It is a horrifying fact that more than 31 percent of nursing home residents suffer from malnutrition and dehydration, according to a 2000 study by the National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform.

This means that the possibility of your loved one suffering from malnutrition and dehydration while in a nursing home rivals that of people struggling to survive in the Third World.

The overwhelming cause of malnutrition and dehydration in nursing home residents is directly linked to the facilities not having enough staff.

This same report found that certified nursing assistants typically help up to 15 residents eat and drink at any point throughout the day. Despite the fact that the ideal ratio would be one certified nursing assistant for every 2 to 3 residents who need assistance eating and drinking, some nursing homes continue to place profit over people.

Shockingly, understaffing in nursing homes means that at any given time, 35 to 85 percent of residents in nursing homes are at jeopardy of becoming undernourished and dehydrated.

Like all threats to the elderly, the dangers related to malnutrition and dehydration can add up quickly. The most common dangers are:

  • Weakened immune system.
  • Increased risk for infections.
  • Impairment of vital organs, such as the liver and heart.
  • Anemia.
  • Bedsores.
  • Weakness, which can result in falls and other complications

The first visible signs of malnutrition and dehydration tend to be disorientation and confusion. Often nursing home residents will not complain of being hungry or thirsty because they may:

  • Suffer from dementia.
  • Have language problems due to a stroke or other infirmity.
  • Not want to use the bathroom.
  • Not recognize that they are thirsty or hungry due to natural aging processes.

Questions to ask yourself when you think your loved one is facing the dangers caused by malnutrition and dehydration are:

  • Are they losing weight?
  • Does your loved one have dry, cracked lips or a pale-looking mouth?
  • Do you notice that they have difficulty speaking due to a dry mouth?
  • Do they complain that their false teeth no longer fit?
  • Does your loved one have thinning hair or hair that is growing sparser?
  • Do they have skin that is breaking down or seems loose and looks or feels drier than usual? Or, is their skin dry and warm to the touch?

To prevent malnutrition and dehydration in your loved one, there are steps you can take. These include:

  • Ask to see the medical records and check the staff notes to determine how much water they are receiving a day and how well (or not) they are eating.
  • Speak openly with the nursing home staff about how many residents they are responsible for assisting with their meals and water.
  • If your loved one needs assistance eating or drinking, try to be there are meal times to help.
  • If your family member is still capable of feeding themselves, ask them if they are eating what they like, when they like, and where they like it. Talk to staff about permitting more flexibility in what your loved one can eat and when they eat it.

If the level of care does not seem to change, contact your local long-term ombudsmen who are dedicated to acting as an advocate for your loved one and ensuring that they receive the best care possible.

If the worst happens and your loved one suffers a serious personal injury or a wrongful death, contact Garcia & Artigliere to learn about your and your loved ones legal options.


We offer free and confidential consultations. Call (800) 328-2630 Learn About Your Legal Options

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