Dehydration and Aging

Dehydration and Aging

Nursing Home Abuse

Dehydration in Elderly Nursing Home Residents

Dehydration in the elderly nursing home residents occurs when a person does not have the necessary fluid content in their body to perform normal and crucial bodily functions. Most body systems and organs are drastically affected by water deprivation. Dehydration can be especially harmful in the elderly, causing harm faster than starvation. A 10 percent loss of body fluids is serious. A 20 percent loss can result in death due to dehydration

Elderly More Prone to Dehydration

1. Elderly people have 60 percent water content in their bodies, as opposed to 70 percent for younger adults. As the elderly lose their lean body mass (muscle mass), the water levels in their bodies decrease, making them more prone to dehydration.

2. The elderly also have a lowered thirst response. This condition combined with other possible effects of aging, including physical dependence on others, such as nursing home staff, often results in failure to maintain a safe level of hydration.

3. As a nursing home resident gets older, their kidneys do not concentrate urine as well as they used to. With aging, our kidneys allow glucose and sodium to escape along with the necessary fluids to stay healthy, causing increased chances of dehydration.

4. Those who suffer from congestive heart failure or high blood pressure may be taking a diuretic. Diuretics affect the body's fluid balance by eliminating excess fluids. It is very important to maintain proper fluid levels for elderly nursing home residents who are taking diuretics.

5. Swallowing difficulties and generally poor food intake - common problems among the elderly - also add to dehydration problems. Remember that many foods contain fluids needed to prevent dehydration.

6. Warm environments or slight increases in body temperature create a need for up to 10 percent more fluids. When it starts to get hotter outside, make sure to increase fluid intake of elderly nursing home residents.

7. Many elderly people go to bed very soon after eating dinner or their last meal of the day. This often creates too long a time frame between fluid intake. Elderly people should be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids before bedtime to prevent dehydration. When possible, elderly nursing home residents should have a glass of water available if they wake up thirsty during the night.

8. Elderly nursing home residents dealing with incontinence may resist drinking fluids before outings and bedtime to avoid accidents due to incontinence. The effects of incontinence and the lack of fluid intake can cause dehydration. [See urinary incontinence.]

9. Elderly nursing home residents who suffer from constipation often use laxatives on a regular basis. Laxative use causes a loss of needed fluids, causing dehydration, and should be compensated for by increasing fluid intake.

Guidelines for Preventing Dehydration in the Elderly

Preventing dehydration is easy if you follow the following guidelines.

* Make sure an elderly nursing home resident drinks at least 6 cups of fluid each day.
* If an elderly nursing home resident has diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding, edema, infections, bedsores, increased activity levels, fever, increased exposure to warm environments, or is taking diuretics, he or she needs to increase their intake of fluids to prevent dehydration. Important Note: This does not apply to people with heart and renal conditions who are on a doctor ordered "fluid restriction." In this case, consult with the doctor for detailed fluid instructions.

Increase Fluid Intake in the Elderly

1. To increase fluid intake in the elderly, use larger, but easy-to-handle cups and glasses. Consult with an occupational therapist to fit the drinking device to the grip of the person who is trying to increase their fluid intake.

2. Add fruit ices, fruit juices, popsicles, and gelatin desserts to the diet of elderly nursing home residents. These provide important fluids, and help increase overall fluid intake.

3. Establish schedules for increasing fluid intake. Gradually build up to the safe and effective levels of daily fluid intake.

Commitment to Elderly Health

Nursing home lawyer Jeffrey H. Rasansky is committed to improving the health and well being of nursing home residents. While dehydration is common in elderly nursing home residents, dehydration can be caused by lack of care, neglect, or negligence of nursing home staff. If you feel a loved one has suffered from dehydration due to the neglect or negligence of their nursing home staff, contact an experienced nursing home lawyer at the Law Offices of Jeff Rasansky. We can help.

Jeff Rasansky is licensed to practice before all state courts in Texas, the United States District Courts in the Northern and Eastern Districts of Texas and the Fifth United States Circuit Court of Appeals.

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