Signs of Malnutrition and Dehydration in Nursing Homes

As your loved one grows older, it can be a season full of difficult changes. For many Oklahomans, this means deciding to help their elderly parent, grandparent, or family member move to a nursing home or long-term care facility. In making this decision, you’ve determined that this is the best course of action for their health and well-being. 

However, sometimes, nursing homes can be the location of neglect and abuse

While many have excellent experiences in long-term care facilities, sadly, many others do not and are the victims of abuse and neglect in nursing homes. One of the most common forms of physical abuse in nursing home facilities in Oklahoma and throughout the United States is malnutrition and dehydration. 

The experienced team at Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst in Oklahoma City has had the privilege of working with many families as they have sought justice after their loved one experienced malnutrition and dehydration at a nursing home facility, which sometimes leads to death. In this article, we’ll share the signs and symptoms of these conditions, as well as preventive measures to take that might ensure the safety and health of nursing home residents. 

If you believe you or a loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse in the form of malnutrition or dehydration, contact our nursing home neglect and abuse lawyers today for a free case evaluation.  

Prevalence of Malnutrition and Dehydration 

Malnutrition and dehydration among older adults are common. One study saw a prevalence of 17.9% of elderly were malnourished, and the United States government Administration for Community Living estimates that up to 50% of elderly people could be malnourished. Improper nutrition can result in many serious health problems for older adults. 

Dehydration is also widespread among older Americans as well. Studies vary but have shown that older people are more likely to be dehydrated than younger people. Additionally, severe dehydration has been reported to occur in 17% to 28% of older adults in the United States, according to a study. It’s commonly understood that many Americans (as much as 75%, according to some estimates) are dehydrated. However, dehydration is especially dangerous for older Americans and can lead to hospitalization and other severe health issues. 

Signs of Dehydration

Dehydration can have serious consequences for nursing home residents. While the symptoms may vary depending on the individual and the severity of dehydration, it’s very important for caregivers, family members, and residents themselves to know the signs and look for them. 

Here are some common signs and symptoms to watch out for:

  • Dry mouth and lips – One of the earliest signs of dehydration is dryness in the mouth and lips as the body’s fluid levels decrease.
  • Sunken eyes – Dehydration can cause the eyes to appear sunken or hollow, indicating a lack of adequate hydration.
  • Decreased urine output – Infrequent urination or dark-colored urine may signal dehydration, as the body conserves water by producing less urine.
  • Fatigue and weakness – Dehydration can lead to feelings of fatigue and weakness, making it difficult for nursing home residents to perform daily activities.
  • Confusion or irritability – In severe cases, dehydration may affect cognitive function, leading to confusion, irritability, or difficulty concentrating.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness – Dehydration can cause dizziness or lightheadedness, especially when standing up quickly or exerting oneself.
  • Rapid heartbeat or breathing – The body may compensate for dehydration by increasing heart and respiratory rates, resulting in palpitations or shortness of breath.

Our experienced attorneys also remind families that the symptoms may not always be obvious, especially in elderly individuals who may have pre-existing health conditions or cognitive impairment. 

Signs of Malnutrition

Recognizing the symptoms of malnutrition can help caregivers and family members intervene to address nutritional deficiencies and prevent further complications. 

Here are some common signs and symptoms to be aware of:

  • Weight loss – Unintentional weight loss is a hallmark sign of malnutrition and may indicate inadequate intake of essential nutrients.
  • Fatigue and weakness – Malnourished individuals may experience persistent fatigue, weakness, or lethargy, making it challenging to perform daily activities.
  • Muscle wasting – Malnutrition can lead to the breakdown of muscle tissue, resulting in muscle weakness, decreased strength, and impaired mobility.
  • Skin changes – Malnutrition can affect the skin’s health and integrity, leading to dryness, thinning, or discoloration of the skin and delayed wound healing.
  • Brittle hair and nails – Inadequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals may manifest as brittle, dry hair and nails, which can indicate malnutrition.
  • Dental problems – Malnourished individuals may experience dental issues such as tooth decay, gum disease, or mouth sores due to deficiencies in essential nutrients.

What To Do When You See Signs of Dehydration or Malnutrition In Your Loved One 

One of the most basic and essential responsibilities of nursing homes and long-term care facilities is to monitor residents to make sure they are eating and drinking properly. If the nursing home your loved one is a resident in, is not upholding this requirement, action must be taken.  Contact our experienced Nursing Home team for a free consultation. 

Report the Abuse

If you suspect abuse or neglect at a nursing home in Oklahoma, you should report it immediately. If you believe your loved one needs immediate help, call 911.  

In Oklahoma, victims of abuse and their families can contact Adult Protective Services. Oklahoma Adult Protective Services makes reporting very straightforward through their reporting website,, or by calling the Abuse and Neglect hotline at 1-800-522-3511.

There is also an Oklahoma Ombudsman Program that serves residents in Oklahoma’s long-term care facilities. The Ombudsman seeks to help improve the quality of life and the quality of care available to long-term care facility residents. If you have concerns about neglect and abuse, you can file a complaint with the Ombudsman, who will attempt to resolve those complaints within the facility. The responding Ombudsman has the authority to explore problems and recommend corrective action to the facility. To file a complaint, email, and you can find more information on the Oklahoma Long-Term Care Ombudsman website

Notify the Nursing Home Administrator

You should notify the nursing home administrator regarding your complaints, as well. Those who lead the nursing home or long-term care facility should be informed of neglect or abuse happening in their facility.  Ask for a care planning meeting, and have them put a care plan into place to address your concerns and then ensure it is put into action.

Work With An Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

For many families, the next step is to find help from an experienced Oklahoma nursing home abuse and neglect law firm. Attorneys with expertise in this area can help you understand and navigate your options for seeking justice for the victim. 

Most nursing home abuse attorneys, including those at Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst, PLLC will recommend that you begin documenting evidence immediately after abuse occurs. If you decide to pursue legal action and sue a nursing home for neglect or abuse, contact Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst, PLLC to discuss the next steps. 

Find Help From Oklahomas’s Experienced Nursing Home Law Team 

We understand the tide of emotions, anger, and frustration that can come when you realize your loved one is being abused or neglected in the place they should be kept safe. The OKC-based lawyers at Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst are here to provide the support, guidance, and legal representation you need to hold negligent parties accountable. 

If you suspect nursing home abuse and neglect in Oklahoma, contact us for a free consultation. We stand with you! 

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