What are my legal rights if my loved one died of dehydration in a nursing home?

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Dehydration is a common problem among nursing home residents, since many serious illnesses can interfere with person's natural desire to stay hydrated. However, nursing home staff members have a legal obligation to monitor residents for signs of dehydration and to take action before serious harm results.

If your loved one died in a nursing home due to dehydration, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim against the facility. Dehydration and nursing home wrongful deaths

Signs of Dehydration

Studies estimate that at least 31% of nursing home residents suffer from some form of dehydration, which makes watching for signs of inadequate fluid intake a vital part of basic care a facility must provide.

Common signs of mild dehydration in a nursing home resident include:

  • Expressions of thirst
  • A sticky or dry mouth
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, and frequent headaches
  • Dry, papery skin

Signs of moderate dehydration include:

  • Decrease in urine output
  • Decrease in urine frequency
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Inability to sweat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse

Signs of severe dehydration include:

  • Sunken eyes
  • High fever
  • Fainting
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Fast breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

When dehydration is not treated promptly, it can cause seizures, kidney failure, brain swelling, and coma. These complications are often fatal in elderly individuals who are already in poor physical health.

Dehydration often occurs in residents who are malnourished, which can cause additional health problems and increase the risk of fatal complications.

How Dehydration Occurs

Common causes of dehydration in nursing home residents include:

  • Medical conditions that interfere with the perception of thirst
  • Language barriers or an inability to speak well enough to request fluids
  • Not being offered fluids that meet a patient’s taste preferences such as tea or juice instead of plain water
  • Physical conditions that make it difficult to drink without assistance
  • Lack of easy access to beverages in patient rooms or facility common areas
  • Caretakers who fail to provide the special diet a resident requires
  • Caretakers who insert a feeding tube incorrectly due to inexperience or inattentiveness

Nursing home staff members have an obligation to monitor the health of residents and to provide the assistance necessary for eating and drinking. If the nursing home fails to meet this obligation due to understaffing or gross neglect, this can be the basis of a wrongful death claim.

About Wrongful Death Claims

A wrongful death claim is a type of civil action alleging that someone's death was the fault of another person or corporation. It is separate from any criminal charges related to the death, although evidence from a criminal case can be used to support a claim of negligence in the wrongful death claim.

Only certain family members can file a wrongful death claim. In cases involving nursing home residents, the surviving spouse or adult children are typically the ones who must file the case. If there is no spouse or adult children, the surviving siblings or the estate of the deceased person must file the claim.

Damages in a nursing home wrongful death claim include:

  • Medical bills related to the final care of the deceased
  • Applicable pain and suffering from the conduct that caused the wrongful death
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • The family's loss of the deceased person's care and companionship
  • Punitive damages, if the case involves a pattern of severe negligence

There is a one-year statute of limitations in Louisiana for filing wrongful death claims, so it's important to act quickly if you want to take legal action regarding the death of your elderly family member due to dehydration. The longer you wait to seek legal representation, the more difficult it will be to locate the evidence necessary to win the wrongful death claim.

The dedicated legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault has extensive experience handling both nursing home abuse and wrongful death claims. We can locate evidence of negligence, document damages, and negotiate on your behalf for the highest possible settlement.

Filing a wrongful death claim won't bring your loved one back, but the process can provide a sense of closure and help to ensure that other vulnerable nursing home residents won't be subjected to similar mistreatment. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.


William S. Neblett
Attorney William Neblett practices personal injury, maritme, medical malpractice and nursing home abuse law.