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Malnutrition and Dehydration in Nursing Home Residents

Updated September 6, 2019 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Moving your elderly loved one to a nursing home or other care facility is a challenging decision, but you can be comforted by the knowledge that they will be provided with the care they need to be as happy and healthy as possible.


Unfortunately, malnutrition and dehydration are a reality in many nursing homes as a type of physical abuse and neglect. It’s important for you to be familiar with the warning signs of abuse so that you can protect your loved one.

Dehydration in Elders: Causes and Symptoms

Dehydration occurs when a person loses more water than they take in—a reduction of fluids that leads to harm. Chronic dehydration is a common problem for seniors, and it can lead to kidney failure, brain swelling, seizures, pneumonia, coma, or even death.

Symptoms of dehydration can include the following:

  • Confusion, irritability, or delirium
  • Sunken eyes
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation or decreased urination
  • Rapid breathing or heart rate
  • Dry skin or decreased skin elasticity
  • Thirst or dry mouth
  • Difficulty walking, dizziness, and headaches
  • Inability to sweat or produce tears

Seniors can become dehydrated due to a variety of reasons, including medication, decreased thirst, or illness. However, dehydration is also a sign of abuse in nursing homes because caregivers have a responsibility to monitor residents and ensure they are drinking adequate fluids.

Malnutrition in Elders: Causes and Symptoms

Malnutrition is defined as a lack of proper nutrition, whether that occurs due to not enough food or a diet lacking in vitamins and nutrients. It can lead to a weakened immune system, muscle weakness, poor wound healing, decreased organ function, or death.

Symptoms of malnutrition can include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue and dizziness
  • Tooth decay and swollen or bleeding gums
  • Bloating
  • Muscle loss
  • Decline in mental function
  • Dry skin

Elders are prone to malnutrition due to several factors, such as missing teeth or inadequate dentures, inability to feed themselves, appetite loss, and limited access to food. In nursing home settings, food that is bland, unappetizing, cold, or improperly prepared is a common issue.

Nursing Homes Must Care for Residents

Nursing homes have a responsibility to care for the residents and their facilities. They must provide sufficient food and water as well as have adequate and well-trained staff who assist and supervise residents.

To ensure that your loved one is receiving the care they deserve, consider visiting them during mealtimes, observing beverage options, and looking for other red flags.

Contact a Nursing Home and Elder Abuse Attorney Today

If you suspect that your elderly loved one is malnourished or dehydrated due to negligence or abuse, contact the Indianapolis Nursing Home and Elder Abuse Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you and your family get the compensation you deserve.

Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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Let WKW put our experience to work for you. Contact us for your free case evaluation.


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