When a Nursing Home Is Responsible for a Resident’s Dehydration

Nursing home facilities that fail to ensure that residents are properly hydrated put their health and safety at unnecessary risk of serious injury or death. Facility operators and the staff who work within nursing facilities have a duty of care that requires them to provide proper hydration and nourishment to residents. When nursing homes fail to ensure that residents are adequately hydrated, the facilities can be held liable for neglect.

Recognizing Dehydration

Dehydrated residents may have difficulty urinating, feel dizzy, or have an elevated heart rate. They may also have overly dry skin, sunken eyes, difficulty sleeping, or suffer from fainting spells. General irritability, exhibit mental confusion, and suffering a sudden drop in energy levels may also occur. Residents suffering from persistent diarrhea, vomiting, or prolonged fever are at increased risk of becoming dehydrated. Similarly, residents who have conditions including diabetes or other chronic illnesses, including those that limit mobility or cognitive function can become dehydrated without any warning. Some medications increase the risk of dehydration.  

Hazards Associated with Dehydration

Dehydration can cause or exacerbate health conditions. It is estimated that approximately 500 nursing facility residents die each year as a result of dehydration. These deaths occur because of seizures, kidney failure, and comas. When residents are suddenly hydrated after a period of dehydration, it can lead to brain swelling and sudden death. Thus, nursing home staff must take proper precautions when attempting to help a patient recover from dehydration.  

Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing home facilities owe a duty of care to all of their residents. This duty includes providing them with adequate hydration at all times. Nurses and other staff are responsible for checking the patient’s medical records to ensure that they are receiving sufficient hydration that is aligned with their physician’s recommendations. This includes accounting for the impact prescription medication will have on their overall hydration. In cases where residents are connected to IV lines to provide hydration, nursing home staff are required to properly administer saline solutions and other fluids in a manner that is aligned with accepted standards of treatment and care.

Establishing nursing home neglect requires showing that there is a connection between the resident’s required care and the treatment they received. This can be achieved by reviewing the patient’s medical records, duty logs, eyewitness statements, and video surveillance.