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Nursing Homes Abuse Blog By Jonathan Rosenfeld

Dehydration Death Costs Nursing Home $6.5M

Posted in Dehydration

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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.

Related Nursing Homes Abuse Blog Posts

Medical Examiner Rules Tennessee Nursing Home Death A Homicide

Grim Details Emerge Regarding Malnutrition In Kentucky Nursing Home

We All Need Water

  • http://www.retirementcommunities.net retirement communities

    I wouldn’t say you’re oversimplifying it. Dehydration of residents is horrible.

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  • MICHELLE

    Dehydration and malnutrition neglect at a nursing home in Iowa almost cost my dad his life on February 6th 2011. the nurses and doctors refused him the hospital. they stated he always asked to go. I requested he go to the hospital a week before they refused saying he really didn’t need to go and that he was just very ill due to his copd and emphysema. They told me he just didn’t have long to live and those were some of the signs and that i should have hospice for more support and to help him be comfortable.
    At the same time contradicting themselves as the doctor had cut back his pain medication and his breathing treatments. they also did not have him on any set schedule for the pain medications and were told he could only have them three times a day.
    He couldn’t even stand he was so weak on February 6th. On Thursday Feb 4th hospice came in without my knowledge when i was not there and later told me he refused their services.
    They stated he definitely qualified as a terminally ill declining health patient. i asked why i was not told first. they stated no one told them that i was to be notified first.
    Four days later they called me again and i told them he was now in the hospital just 4 days later after she had seen him without notifying me first as they were instructed to do the hospice lady then changed her story immediately saying oh he didn’t seem ill to me when i seen him just 4 days ago!!!???? And that he still qualifies for their services if i wished to work with her??? I thought patients who are dying only qualify for their services?? don’t think so!!
    He complained of pain constantly and feeling very sick. They blew him off.
    It almost cost him his life. When i found out that the nurse said he always asks to go to the hospital that’s when i started asking questions. I demanded that they send him that very night when i realized how poor his health was and that things just didn’t seem right at the facility.
    I stated that i was on my way there to demand he go even if i had to call 911 myself. When i arrived i asked when the last time he had been weighed.
    the nurse on duty whom i had to search for (think she was off watching the Superbowl).
    She said his chart said he weighed 119 pounds. However that was wrong information as he only weighed 84 pounds when he arrived and had seemed to have lost even more weight while declining in health.
    She became irritated with me for saying the chart was wrong and demanded an aide go get a scale. That is when the medics arrived.
    They did call only when i gave an ultimatum.
    We also just found a website called- Bettendorf health care- in Iowa website that states all of their records of all complaints of residents and inspections of things wrong with the facility.
    I called and spoke with the director today who did not know anything about any of my concerns and did not seem to be taking notes. I had spoken to her a week after he had arrived on January 14th 2010 to recover from a stay at the hospital. she said she didn’t know how his admitting paperwork and information had been missed except that they were short an admitting person who had just quit. Had anyone even known what to do with him the first week he was there??
    I asked her on February 7th several questions-she seemed to give contradicting answers on every single thing I had been previously told by her and several of the staff in previous inquiries. I asked if I seemed to have such important concerns and complaints to address why she had not gone to get my dads chart since she said she didn’t even have his chart in front of her.
    She stated then that she did have his chart in her office of his paperwork but not the nurses chart. She also had no knowledge of why he would have been out of paid medication from midnight to 6 p the next day (i know because of a previous incident a couple weeks earlier when i asked if he couldn’t have pain meds. They said they didn’t know. I requested they check his chart to see when he had one last. they did and said that it had been midnight the day before. that nurse stated that if someone forgets to order medication that happens. (the director said she had no knowledge of that happening since meds can be ordered with just a phone call and delivery right away all hours of the day and night she asked who i had dealt with. I told her it would be easy to know if she looked at his chart for the times i stated.
    They about killed him and now she tells me that i should have dealt with the director of nursing (Becky instead of her the director of admissions) because Becky knew my dad real well. Oh really? Did she? Why did he almost die then?
    On February 7th while retrieving my dads items-i asked a visitor in the next room over if she was doing ok with her mom there. She stated she did have an incident with a major urinary infection of her mom which would have been very obvious to anyone who helped change the urine bag with blood in it. Only when she brought it to a nurses attention was a doctor called to treat that.
    Bettendorf health care has a high urinary infection rate of residents. that is a symptom of dehydration.
    My dad arrived at the hospital near death. the ER found that he was severely dehydrated and had pneumonia and would have died without medical attention if it had waited any longer. He has been on iv bags of fluids all night and day and antibiotics- he had low kidney function as well.
    So before choosing this facility be sure to consider the facts listed. They did not seem to improve his quality of life rather almost killed him and wrote it off as he is ill anyways-going as far to tell me those are symptoms of his illness. (they are actually all near death symptoms of malnutrition and dehydration (and pneumonia).!!
    They also have 73 patients the average for iowa facilities is 57. The hours and qualifications of staff are way under the national average.
    They are way understaffed for the number of patients they have. I searched for a nurse tonight to help a resident calling for help as I walked by his room. i found three young aides in a small back room that holds a fridge. I insisted they come help. They said they were not nurses. I insisted anyway.
    As they walked out of the room after helping i did state that it shouldn’t have taken three of them in the small room to do whatever needed to be done. she replied that they were discussing something. I said they needed to leave the drama at home and start taking care of the patients. She did not argue that fact and walked away.
    I didn’t see a nurse until on my way out of the facility in the tv area near the front door. On my way out half the sidewalk was covered with ice. no one had put salt down on the icy sidewalk. i almost slipped on the ice. not a safe place.
    When he arrived at the hospital he was slurring his words was very disoriented. the next day with fluids and antibiotics he wondered how he had gotten there and felt a little better considering he suffered through so much due to major negligence. The dietician came in to his hospital room and immediately made up a diet to fit his needs to include diabetic meals nutrition shakes and snacks. she asked if he had been getting that at bettendorf health care. he said no the food was horrible.
    Bettendorf health care stated my dad slept through meals. They also stated a lot of residents did that. they also stated the kitchen is closed at night when a lot of residents are awake. to be fair they said they did have many snacks in the storage closet that holds a fridge behind the nurses station. seems to be a popular place to find many of the staff hiding out.

  • http://www.nursinghomesabuseblog.com Jonathan Rosenfeld

    Michelle-
    Your father is lucky to have someone like you looking after him. Sadly, dehydration and malnutrition are major problems continually facing nursing home patients. Left untreated– dehydration and malnutrition can quickly spiral into other significant health problems.
    I wish your father the best. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • jenny

    My dad was at a local hospital for aspiration pneumonia….they over-sedated him because he kept trying to go to the bathroom….he awoke 3 days later and was lethargic. Then they tried telling me that he had end stage dementia but I knew immediately that was wrong because I was the one taking care of him at home….I argued for days with a hospitalist till he ordered a neurological exam….. I was right and the physician was wrong…my dad was diagnosed by a neurologist with neurolopathy. The physician never apologized. I dad’s pneumonia was improving as well as the brain infection…so they transferred him to MEADOWBROOK (aka:murdur brook).
    At meadow brook, he caught C-diff which they failed to recognized and treat. I knew something wasn’t right and when I questioned the staff they did nothing to respond to his deterioration in health. I hired a personal CNA to stay with him while I had to work. She informed me that he was getting worse by the day…and I should get him to a “real” hospital” Well, long story short…..when I told them my dad needed emergency care, they ignored me…..and by the time I got him to a hospital which were several days later because they wouldn’t order an ambulance to come sooner…..my dad had to be resusciated in the ambulance, and arrived on a push ventilator. He was also severely dehydrated, had sepsis, severely malnourished, and acute resp distress. He DIED ! And to think that all of this happened in an “acute care hospital” that is accredited and certified by the state.
    I have filed a complaint against them with the Dept of Health and Hosp. and within 3 days the federal government is already involved in the case. I AM SO SAD THIS HAPPENED TO MY DAD ! THIS NEVER SHOULD OF HAPPENED !

  • Annabelle

    My name is really not Annabelle. I gave that as I have an appointment with a personal injury lawyer this next week because my Mother died Oct. 2, totally unexpected, at a nursing home with a rehab facility. I was planning to bring her home within a few days when she died. Mom was 83 and was recovering well from hip surgery.
    As it looks now, Mom died because she was totally dehydrated. I did not even know she was dehydrated; the funeral director took me privately aside before the visitation and explained at great length that Mom was “totally dehydrated”. He said her skin was like leather, her lips were black, and she was so dehydrated that he’d had to use wax on her mouth to cover the crack in her mouth so it would not show for the visitation, and he’d had to heavily gloss her lips. He said he’d applied cream to her face to try to hide the dehydration and make her look better, as well. I stood absolutely flabbergasted, listening to what he was telling me. He concluded by saying: “There was simply no moisture in her system.”
    The facility had called me the evening of Oct. 2 and told me Mom was in full code and they were having no success in resuscitating her. She’d been found blue, gasping and foaming at the mouth. She was taken to ER, where I met the ER doc, who said he didn’t know what happened. Mom had an aneurysm, so I asked if that had been the problem, if it had ruptured, and he said no, because the chest compressions had caused blood flow; had the aneurysm ruptured, there would have been no blood flow during compressions.
    An RN from the facility called me the next day as I was preparing to go make funeral arrangements and told me a chest x-ray had shown a “large mass” in a lung, and that an urgent cat scan had been recommended. I had known nothing about the mass or that a cat scan had been recommended. The facility doctor decided not to follow up on the cat scan–it was never done. No one called me about this at all.
    I am left without my Mother, and had it not been for the funeral director telling me about the complete dehydration, the facility might have gotten away with this. The funeral director has agreed to furnish a written statement about the dehydration, which I will take to my lawyer, along with all the details I know, written in my own report.
    You’d better believe I’m suing.
    For anyone reading this, know that nursing homes/rehab facilities can and do kill the residents sometimes, through neglect. This facility is clean, and its residents look clean, and the therapy staff has an excellent reputation. I thought Mom was safe there. It happened to my Mom, and it can happen to anyone’s loved one.
    I wish with everything in me I had gotten her out of there a week before this happened. Had she been home, I would have known she’d been unable to drink properly and I’d have gotten her to a hospital.
    I hope what I have written will help someone else avoid my ordeal. I couldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

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