Water is as critical to the functioning of our bodies as the oxygen we breathe. The average adult human body is about 60 percent water, and some parts of our bodies have much higher water content. The heart and brain are more than 70 percent water, and the lungs are more than 80 percent water in composition. Without water, we quickly become ill — and may die after just a handful of days without water.
Our dependence on water makes dehydration a very serious danger, particularly for elderly people whose bodies tend to have less water content than younger people. Seniors can become dehydrated more quickly than younger adults, and also may be in the position of depending on others to ensure they stay sufficiently hydrated if they live in nursing homes. They may have limited mobility and unable to get fluids for themselves. In that situation, the nursing home staff has a duty to make sure that the resident doesn’t become dehydrated and suffer the potentially serious medical consequences of lack of fluids in the body.
When a nursing home fails to make sure that residents are properly hydrated, the staff or owner may be guilty of abuse or neglect if staff failed to recognize and treat the signs of dehydration, or intentionally withheld fluids as a means of punishment or control. If you or a loved one has suffered dehydration because of abuse or neglect in a nursing home, you may have a claim for compensation under Illinois law. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, 210 ILCS 45/2-106, says that nursing home residents have the right to be free from abuse and neglect, and that the owner or licensee of the nursing home may be liable for costs that a resident incurs as the result of abuse or neglect.
An experienced nursing home lawyer can help you determine if you or your loved one may have a claim after suffering dehydration. Through a successful claim, you may be able to recover any medical costs linked to the dehydration, as well as compensation for lost income, pain and suffering, loss of normal life, and attorney fees.
Warning Signs of Dehydration
There are a number of ways that a person may become dehydrated. A person can lose fluid by sweating excessively, such as during a workout, and not replacing the fluid by drinking water or a sports drink. Some medical conditions, such as uncontrolled diabetes, may cause a person to urinate too often and lose fluid. A person also may become dehydrated when they’re sick with an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea.
Dehydration can be mild, and treated by drinking some fluids or sucking on ice chips. When dehydration progresses and becomes more severe, treatment may involve giving the person fluids through an IV. Treating dehydration also may involved treating the underlying condition that caused the dehydration, such as getting blood sugar under control to reduce the frequency of urination.
When dehydration is mild to moderate, symptoms may include:
- Feeling thirsty
- Feeling of dryness or stickiness inside the mouth
- Urinating less than is usual
- Urine that is darker yellow in color
- Skin becoming dry and cool
- Headaches, including migraines
- Muscle cramping
When dehydration has become severe, symptoms may include:
- Feeling confused or irritable
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed
- Fast heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Feeling listless
- Eyes that look sunken
- Skin becoming dry and shriveled
- Not urinating
- Urine that is very dark yellow or amber-colored
- Becoming delirious
- Losing consciousness
Dehydration can be a life-threatening condition when left untreated. Dehydration can affect kidney function and result in kidney failure, which can be life threatening. It also can lead to brain damage and seizures if left untreated. Severe dehydration can be fatal, particularly for people whose health is fragile to begin with.
How a Lawyer Can Help
When you or a loved one has suffered abuse or neglect in a nursing home, you’re likely feeling a lot of emotions and wondering what you can do. An experienced Chicago nursing home attorney can discuss with you options for putting a stop to the neglect or abuse, and for taking action to prevent future neglect or abuse. That may include reporting the abuse or neglect to the state Department of Public Health and allowing the state to conduct an investigation. The state then may take action against the nursing home’s license.
A nursing home attorney also can discuss your options for seeking compensation. Illinois law allows you to recover compensation of actual costs incurred, such as medical expenses, as well as your attorney fees. You may be able to obtain compensation through an insurance settlement, or by filing a lawsuit alleging nursing home abuse and neglect.
Your lawyer can help you through the process of seeking compensation from start to finish, including conducting an independent investigation and gathering evidence to document the abuse or neglect and the damages you incurred. Your lawyer also can negotiate on your behalf or try your case in court and work to get you the best possible result.
If you would like to speak with a Chicago nursing home attorney, contact Jared Staver today at (312) 236-2900 for a free consultation.