We’re continuing our series of newsletters with information about nursing homes.  Our last two newsletters focused on falls and medication errors in nursing homes.

This week’s newsletter is about dehydration at nursing homes.

DEHYDRATION

The elderly are at high-risk for dehydration.  As the body ages, the amount of water in it decreases.  That’s one of the main reasons elderly adults are at a higher risk for dehydration.

When an elderly person gets dehydrated, their risk of developing infectious disease, stroke, kidney stones, chronic constipation and impaired cognitive function goes way up.

Dehydration is something that nursing homes should be able to control.  But the numbers are staggering:

Patients over the age of 65 admitted to hospitals found that patients from nursing homes were more than five times as likely to be dehydrated as patients who came from their own homes.  

WHERE THERE’S SMOKE THERE’S FIRE

Dehydration is a big problem.  About a third of nursing home residents suffer from dehydration.

But there’s more to it.  Dehydration is a red flag.  It lets everyone know that the nursing home has problems.

Here are some of the most common problems that lead to resident dehydration:

1.         Inadequate Staffing.  That means either too few employees or too few properly trained employees.  This includes both employees to make sure that residents get enough to drink and also medical providers who are able to effectively monitor residents.

2.         Lack of Individualized Care.  Nursing homes must establish a comprehensive, individualized care plan for each resident that spells out care needs and how they will be met.  Failure to plan is planning to fail.  Dehydration highlights either the absence of a truly individual care plan or failure to follow an existing plan.

3.         High Staff Turnover.  The nursing assistant position/profession has a 93 percent yearly turnover rate.  This leads to—at best—inconsistent care.

If a resident is dehydrated there’s something wrong.  It’s time to find out why the resident is dehydrated, solve that problem and figure out whether there are other things that have gone wrong because of the nursing home’s systemic failure.