Complications of Malnutrition and Dehydration in Nursing Homes

Malnourishment and dehydration are two of the most common types of nursing home neglect or abuse. Often, the conditions are related and if you find one, you find both. Serious health complications like weakness, weight loss, and even death can occur as a direct result of these conditions. They can also contribute to serious conditions like bedsores and renal failure.


Malnutrition occurs when a person doesn’t have their proper nutritional levels maintained. Though there can be various contributing factors to malnutrition, lawyers often find that it has occurred as a result of staff simply not feeding a resident. In some cases, the act may be intentional. More often than not, however, it is the result of negligence or inadequate staffing at a nursing home.

One of the biggest problems that can limit care in nursing homes is too few care providers for the number of residents. When there are too few providers, they often do not have enough times during their shift to complete their tasks and meet the residents’ basic needs.

Malnutrition is especially problematic with nursing home residents who are unable to feed themselves. Though food may be delivered to these patients, it may sit untouched at their bedsides.

Physical causes of malnutrition are numerous. They can include can include illness, vomiting or diarrhea as a side effect of medication, food and drug interactions, depression, mouth problems like tooth loss or dentures that don’t fit, and tremors which make eating difficult. Malnourishment can also be caused by things in the environment. Inadequate help eating, uneducated staff, reliance on liquid supplements, and special diets can all contribute.

Malnutrition is a common cause of illness in nursing homes. Recognizing the signs of malnutrition will probably fall into the hands of the victim’s family. They will know the normal mental and physical habits of their loved ones. Family members are usually the first to notice a change in health.

The symptoms of elder malnutrition include weakness, fatigue, abnormal skin color, and a changed mental state. If these symptoms are present, it is important to look through what vitamins and foods the victim may be missing.

Malnutrition can lead to infections, confusion, and muscle weakness resulting in immobility and falls, as well as pressure ulcers, pneumonia, and increased susceptibility to bacteria and viruses. If a senior is being properly cared for in a nursing home, malnutrition should not happen. Nursing homes have a responsibility to ensure that residents maintain good nutritional health by providing them with well-balanced meals and assistance in eating.


It can be especially important with elderly or sick people to maintain proper fluid levels. Even a 10 percent reduction of fluids can cause serious harm. A 20 percent reduction may lead to death. In addition to actual withholding of water, warm environments and increase in body temperature can lead to dehydration.

Dehydration can be caused by increased fluid loss due to illness with fever or vomiting, side effects of medications, and decreased thirst sensations among other things.

Nursing home providers are responsible for monitoring the resident’s hydration levels. Proper fluid intake is an important part of maintaining health, especially in elderly residents. Some signs that an elder may be at risk for dehydration include water pitchers that are full, but out of reach, and excessively warm rooms.

Elderly residents of nursing homes who do not receive the proper amount of fluids can be subject to many illnesses. Dehydration can make them more susceptible to urinary tract infections, ulcers, disorientation and pneumonia, as well as electrolyte imbalances.

If you suspect that your loved one is experiencing mistreatment, neglect, or abuse in their Pennsylvania nursing home, it is important to take immediate action. Finding a Philadelphia nursing home abuse attorney experienced in malnutrition and dehydration will help you to get the facts straight and rectify the situation. An attorney can help you figure out whether you have grounds for an abuse or neglect claim in court.

Nearly 14,000 nursing home residents died as a direct result of malnutrition or dehydration between 1999 and 2002. We must work to stop these preventable deaths. Hiring a Philadelphia nursing home malnutrition lawyer is the first step to bringing our nursing homes up to the standard of care the residents deserve.