Malnutrition and Dehydration

Malnutrition and dehydration, caused by a lack of proper nutrition and fluids, can lead to infections, confusion and muscle weakness. These symptoms can result in immobility, falls, pressure ulcers, pneumonia and a weak immune system. Nursing homes are required to provide well-balanced and palatable meals to residents that deliver adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, proteins and calories. A simple lab test can confirm whether a nursing home resident is suffering from malnutrition or dehydration.

Nursing home residents with the following risk factors have an increased chance of suffering from malnutrition and dehydration:

  • Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Drug side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or sleepiness
  • Food and drug interactions that decrease the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals
  • Major psychiatric disorders ort altered behavior, such as severe anxiety, confusion or not being able to stay awake
  • Mouth problems such as ill-fitting dentures, mouth sores or mouth pain
  • Repeated infection
  • Stroke
  • Swallowing disorders
  • Tremors, which affect residents’ ability to feed themselves
  • Use of diuretics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, laxatives or steroids

Malnutrition Side Effects

  • Dull eyes
  • Pale skin, lips or mouth
  • Poor skin elasticity
  • Resident appears confused or disoriented (not as a result of mental illness such as Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Swollen arms and lower legs (edema)
  • Swollen lips, gums and/or dry tongue, cracks around the mouth
  • Thinning hair
  • Unexplainable weight loss
  • Wounds that take longer than usual to heal

Dehydration Side Effects

  • Cold, clammy, hot or unusually dry skin
  • Dry mouth and sticky saliva
  • Eyes that do not tear
  • Increased or extreme thirst
  • Lightheadedness that is relieved by lying down
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Reduced urine output or urine that is dark yellow or brown
  • Repeated infection
  • Severe vomiting, diarrhea and/or fevers
  • Stroke
  • Weak, rapid pulse