Signs and Symptoms of Nursing Home Malnutrition and Dehydration

Federal and state laws require that nursing homes maintain or attain the highest practicable mental, physical, and psychosocial well-being for their patients.  These laws provide that nursing homes must ensure that their patients’ nutrition and hydration needs are met, as proper nutrition and hydration are two critical components for nursing home residents to maintain their overall health and well-being inside the facility.

The elderly are particularly at risk for both malnutrition and dehydration.  Due to decreased body reserves and other diminished capacities, the elderly are much more susceptible to malnourishment than younger adults. Moreover, many aging patients have dental problems or experience loss of appetite caused by health problems or medications. Thus, they need to be monitored by nursing home staff carefully for any signs of malnutrition. Often times this is not done.

Another reason patients become malnourished while residing in nursing homes is that many cannot feed themselves without assistance, and are not properly fed by nursing home staff. Each year thousands of nursing homes across the country receive citations for inappropriate feeding tube insertions or improper feeding methods.

Recognizing the symptoms of malnutrition and dehydration in your loved ones can often times be very difficult. However, it is extremely important to recognize these signs and symptoms as dehydration and malnutrition can lead to very serious health complications and skin breakdown. The following are signs that you should monitor closely, as these may indicate serious malnutrition or dehydration problems in a nursing home patient:

  • Easily bruising
  • Diminished energy
  • Lowered mental sharpness
  • Hair loss
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Wounds that heal poorly
  • Dental issues
  • Inflamed and red eyes
  • Yellow skin
  • Chills
  • Dry mouth or skin
  • Flushing skin –

If you see any of the above signs, you should make your concerns known to the nursing home staff immediately.  Nursing home residents should not be allowed to become malnourished. Even residents who refuse to eat because of depression or other health problems can be provided nutritional supplements.  Often times, a malnourished nursing home resident is a victim of neglect.

If you believe a loved one has suffered serious injuries as result of malnutrition or dehydration while a resident of a nursing home, contact the experienced Nursing Home Attorneys at Suthers & Harper. Suthers & Harper, which practices throughout the States of Georgia and South Carolina, regularly represents victims who have been abused or neglected and their families in cases against nursing homes and assisted living facilities. For more information on nursing home abuse and neglect, see the page entitled “Nursing Home Resource Center” at the website of Suthers & Harper,

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