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Signs of Nursing Home Neglect -- Identifying Malnutrition and Dehydration

While many nursing homes strive to provide the highest quality of care to the elderly in their facilities, somehow incidents of dehydration and malnutrition affect as many as two out of every five nursing home residents.  As the loved one of an elderly resident in a nursing home, you should always be aware of the signs of malnutrition and dehydration.

Some signs of nursing home nutritional neglect are more obvious than others. Malnutrition and dehydration generally stem from medicinal side effects, dental problems or physical disabilities. But unfortunately many nursing home facilities are understaffed, don’t provide sufficient training to properly monitor the eating and drinking habits of their residents and have high turnover rates. This results in conditions that contribute to neglect.  


Dehydration occurs when an individual’s loss of fluids is greater than their intake. People in nursing homes may be at a greater risk of dehydration, because they usually require assistance and may not drink enough fluids on their own. Dehydration puts residents at risk for numerous medical problems including weakened immune systems, worsened dementia, bedsores, electrolyte imbalances, pneumonia and especially highe rates of urinary tract infections. As families of nursing home patients, it is important to monitor whether your loved one is receiving enough fluids, and to remind staff to encourage residents to drink, even if they do not feel thirsty.

Other signs of dehydration

Loss of appetite, skin flushing, dark colored urine, fatigue and weakness are indicative signs of dehydration. More serious symptoms may include vomiting, difficulty with breathing and seizures. Serious symptoms should be treated as life-threatening by nursing homes and victims should receive treatment immediately.


Malnutrition is a result of inadequate amounts of food or an unbalanced diet that lacks proper nutrients. This will eventually result in malnutrition without proper nutritional intake. The elderly are prone to appetite loss and may not be able to feed themselves, therefore it’s especially important for staff members to monitor and help residents during meal time, as well as providing substantial, good tasting food.

Other signs of malnutrition

Weight loss, muscle loss, weakness, decreased organ function, a bloated abdomen, and tooth decay are all signs of significant malnutrition. Without the proper nutrition, it becomes even harder for elderly patients to ward off infection, which can lead to additional medical complications and may even prove fatal. As well, hundreds of nursing homes are cited yearly for inappropriate feeding tube insertions and improper feeding methods that can result in life-threatening diseases such as aspiration pneumonia.

Nursing home staff may simply believe the person’s age is cause of the symptoms that are in fact due to malnutrition and dehydration. If left undiagnosed, these medical conditions may lead to permanent disability and wrongful death.

Due to this issue harming thousands of residents a year, it is imperative that you are vigilant of the care your loved one receives in a nursing home. Even if you believe the neglect is accidental or an isolated incident, it a critical to address the issue immediately, and get your loved one emergency care.

The nursing home neglect and abuse attorneys at Hupy and Abraham believe that everyone should be treated with dignity. They also believe victims of nursing home neglect or abuse should be able to recover from the preventable injuries that they suffered. If you or a loved one have suffered neglect in a nursing home, or have any questions , contact Hupy and Abraham today at 800-800-5678.