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Nursing Home Abuse: Malnutrition and Dehydration in Nursing Home Residents

A good diet is vital to our overall health and well-being. When it comes to senior care, nursing facilities have many responsibilities and obligations to keep their residents nourished and hydrated. However, malnutrition and dehydration in nursing homes may be more prevalent than you think. Research funded by The Commonwealth Fund found that over one-third of the almost two million people living in nursing homes are malnourished or dehydrated in some way.

Dehydration and malnutrition can be particularly dangerous for seniors when they are not receiving proper care and treatment. If you suspect malnutrition or dehydration may have contributed to the harm or death of a loved one, contact a nursing home abuse lawyer to assist you in making an informed decision about the next steps you should take.

Identifying Signs and Symptoms of Malnutrition and Dehydration

Malnutrition and dehydration are two of the most common forms of neglect or abuse in a nursing home. The conditions are frequently connected, so if you detect one, you usually find both.


Malnutrition can take various forms. In addition to not being fed, it can also refer to failing to ensure that residents receive enough vitamins, minerals, amino acids, or other nutrients. Malnourished patients in nursing homes are typically unable to eat for themselves by themselves either, making proper care especially important. Some signs and symptoms of malnutrition may include:

  • Weakness
  • Loss of weight
  • Fatigue
  • Tooth decay
  • Fading skin
  • Whitened nails
  • Depression
  • Difficulty in communicating or paying attention

It is essential to be conscious of the symptoms of malnutrition. Malnutrition frequently has already hurt the body, affecting the blood, tissues, and metabolic functions by the time it can be detected. However, some of the long-term negative consequences can be stopped when they are caught in time.


Dehydration happens when a person loses more water than they take in, resulting in a fluid deficit that can cause harm. Seniors frequently experience chronic dehydration, which can result in kidney failure, brain edema, seizures, pneumonia, coma, or even death. Signs and symptoms of dehydration can include:

  • Delirium, agitation, or confusion
  • Recessed eyes
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced urination or constipation
  • Rapid heartbeat or breathing
  • Less elastic skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Walking difficulties, lightheadedness, and headaches
  • Inability to cry or sweat

Dehydration in seniors can occur for several reasons, including pharmaceutical side effects, decreased thirst, or illness. However, dehydration in nursing homes often indicates abuse, as nurses are responsible for monitoring residents and ensuring they are getting enough fluids.

Causes of Malnutrition and Dehydration in Nursing Homes

The most frequent but often ignored forms of neglect in nursing homes involve malnutrition or dehydration. According to a poll released by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), most people who reside in nursing homes have experienced or witnessed neglect. A neglected resident often lacks necessary access to food, water, and medical care.

Most people wonder why many long-term care patients suffer from malnutrition and dehydration. Every nursing home has a responsibility to offer necessary services to the residents. Sadly, many of them fail to do so for various reasons, such as inadequate training of employees or understaffing and inconsistent or high turnover rates of caregivers.


One of the fundamental problems limiting care in nursing homes is a lack of caregivers for the number of residents. While it is recommended that each Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) be given a patient load of two to three people, many CNAs frequently care for double that number of patients. An average CNA will care for seven to nine residents during the day, and up to twelve to fifteen at night.

When caregivers are not staffed as they should be, they frequently do not have enough time during their shift to accomplish their jobs and meet the fundamental needs of the residents. As a result, residents who follow stringent nutritional standards can be overlooked.

Inconsistent and High Turnover Rates of Caregivers

Additionally, high turnover rates and inconsistent care are identified as contributing factors in malnutrition and dehydration in patients. A facility with a high annual staff turnover rate means relatively few residents are properly cared for and fed by dependable, knowledgeable workers.

Inadequate Training of Employees

A nursing home’s personnel may not recognize malnutrition symptoms or neglect to track residents’ dietary and fluid consumption if staff members are not appropriately trained.

Though various circumstances can cause malnutrition, lawyers frequently uncover that it results from personnel failing to feed a resident properly. Other causes of malnutrition and dehydration can also be inadequate nutrient intake from an imbalanced diet, eating disorders, digestive problems, or drug side effects.

Long-term medical illnesses, including depression or cognitive dysfunction, may also cause these issues. Alzheimer’s or dementia patients may lose the memory of how to eat and therefore consume less food than usual. Depression frequently manifests as undereating or a lack of appetite as well.

How to Take Action If You Suspect Abuse

Nursing homes are responsible for their residents and their amenities. They need to have enough employees who can help and supervise residents, and enough food and drink for their patients. Consider visiting your loved one during mealtimes, observing beverage options, and checking for other red flags to verify that they are receiving the care they deserve.

If your loved one exhibits signs and symptoms of malnutrition or dehydration, it could indicate nursing home negligence or abuse. Your loved one has rights, and it is against the law to mistreat or neglect them. You can report the incident to the police and the care facility. If you decide to file a civil lawsuit, try to include as many details as possible.

Find Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer at Dalli & Marino, LLP in New York Today

When you place your parent or loved one in a nursing home, you expect them to receive the best possible care. However, malnutrition and dehydration are common physical abuse and neglect in nursing homes.

At Dalli & Marino, LLP, we advocate for victims of nursing abuse. Our team of experienced and Spanish-speaking trial lawyers takes a personalized approach to every case. We are committed to defending the rights of people who are the targets of exploitation or neglect. Call us at (888) 465-8790 or contact us online today for a free and confidential consultation.

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