Sometimes I’m amazed by the number of preventable situations that develop in nursing homes due to a facilities failure to provide basic care. I mean, doesn’t it seem obvious that facilities must provide food, water and a decent environment for their residents? Am I oversimplifying nursing home care? Perhaps, but the reality is that an overwhelming majority of nursing home injuries and deaths could be avoided if the facility were to provide this basic level of care.
The Columbus Dispatch reported on this type of preventable situation when it reported on the dehydration death of 61-year-old Peter Southard. In 2005 Southard was admitted to Whetstone Gardens & Care Center in Columbus, Ohio for short-term nursing care to give his wife a break from her care-giving responsibilities. Mrs. Southard was the primary caregiver for her husband since he suffered a stroke more than 20 years ago. The stroke made it physically difficult for Southard to care for himself and realize when he was thirsty. Unfortunately, the staff at Whetstone Gardens was unable to pick up on his special needs and he died shortly after his 15 day admission to the facility. The cause of death was dehydration and kidney failure.
Southard’s wife brought a wrongful death lawsuit against Whestone due to their failure to provide sufficient liquids to her husband. Despite claims from the nursing home that the care they provided was sufficient and that Southard died due to dehydration from diarrhea, a jury recognized the facilities failure to provide basic care to this disabled man. The Franklin County, Ohio jury awarded $500,000 for pain and suffering and $6 million to the wife and family for loss of society.
Dehydration Of Nursing Home Residents
Two out of five nursing home residents suffer from some form of dehydration. Dehydration in nursing home residents can occur for a variety of reasons, including: diarrhea, the effects of medication, inability to perceive thirst, physical inability to drink or swallow and embarrassment related to incontinence. Most of the the time, a resident’s dehydration is due to inadequate care. Common situations involving dehydration include:
- Failure of the nursing home to employ adequate staff, which results in the staff’s inability to properly feed the residents
- Failure of the staff members to pay adequate attention to those residents needing assistance with eating
- Failure to properly educate the staff on nutrition and feeding methods
- Failure to provide proper supervision over those who provide nutritional services
In addition to monitoring resident’s intake of fluid, staff should be on the lookout for the following signs of dehydration:
- Dark yellow urine
- Sunken eyes
- Ashen skin
- Dry skin
- Bleeding gums
- Urinary tract infection
- Weight loss
Is it really too much to ask that nursing homes provide necessities such as water to their residents. I guess that is what the Whetstone Gardens and Care Center is asking themselves now.
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