Charleston nursing homes maintain a diverse staff of specialists. It’s their job to feed your loved one and take care of their personal and medical needs. Sadly, many residents don’t get the care they deserve. Studies show that nursing home residents frequently experience dehydration or malnutrition. The most vulnerable residents, often with physical impairments and cognitive deficits, suffer the most.

The National Center on Elder Abuse considers dehydration and malnutrition as signs of neglect. They further define neglect as “…failure to provide an elderly person with such life necessities as food, water…” Nursing homes can change many of the adverse consequences with proper screening and intervention efforts. Because that doesn’t always happen, dehydration and malnutrition remain a problem among nursing home populations.

The Alzheimer’s Association acknowledges that lack of food and water intake is sometimes a dementia-related issue. Nursing home patients with memory deficits might not always understand or communicate their needs. For some nursing home residents, it’s an appetite or food quality issue. A BMC Geriatrics Journal article on nursing home eating independence suggests that a senior’s lost appetite is related, in part, to a diminished lack of smell and taste. The authors have no cure-all solution but they recommend that nursing homes use a three-pronged approach that’s been successful in other nursing homes.

  • “Ritualizing” mealtime with a stimulating environment
  • “Structuring” mealtime social interactions
  • “Individualizing” meals for each resident

The bottom line is that nursing home staff can’t simply ignore residents’ hydration and malnutrition problems. They must be addressed, but it requires effort.

At Hughey Law Firm, we believe that nursing homes residents deserve to have the food and water they need to survive. If a nursing home neglects to meet these very basic needs, they must pay for the damages they cause. Our law firm has worked with many nursing home clients. We know the state and federal nursing home laws and we understand complex liability issues. We’ve relied on our skills, experience, and integrity to produce favorable outcomes for our clients.

Hughey Law Firm’s Case Results

Our law firm has recovered over 100 million dollars for our clients. When possible we’ve settled our clients’ cases or resolved them through Alternate Dispute Resolution. We’ve also litigated clients’ cases when a lawsuit was the best option.

Each case has unique circumstances, so we can’t promise a specific result; however, our results demonstrate our commitment to producing the best outcomes for our clients:

  • Wrongful death/group home and bar, $3,375,000: The group home where our client lived failed to properly supervise the residents. Our client escaped and a drunk driver killed him.
  • Home care liability, $850,000: Our client sustained a carbon monoxide injury during a fire at a caregiver’s residence.
  • Nursing home neglect, $235,000: When a nursing home failed to monitor our client, she sustained a scaphoid fracture and head lacerations during a fall.
  • Nursing home/assisted living neglect, $500,000: Our client developed pressure sores, malnutrition, and dehydration while residing in a nursing home. She died after the nursing home failed to assess her condition and provide timely treatment.

What Happens When a Nursing Home Patient Suffers From Dehydration or Malnutrition?

Dehydration occurs when a nursing home resident doesn’t consume enough liquids. Malnutrition occurs when they don’t eat enough food to nourish and sustain their body. The Nutrition and Healthy Aging Journal article, “Hydration Health Literacy in the Elderly,” describes dehydration as an underlying cause of confusion, seizures, cognitive impairment, increased falls, and increased morbidity and mortality in older adults.

The Mayo Clinic article, “Senior Health: How to Prevent and Detect Malnutrition,explains that malnutrition can weaken the immune system, decrease the body’s ability to heal wounds, and increase the risk of death. Dehydration and malnourishment are common among nursing home residents despite these and other visible signs.

  • Sunken eyes;
  • Skin turgor;
  • Decreased urination;
  • Confusion;
  • Lack of perspiration;
  • Lethargy;
  • Weakness;
  • Muscle and tissue depletion;
  • Reduced body mass; and
  • Delirium.

Who Is Responsible for Dehydration or Malnutrition in a Nursing Home?

Nursing homes are responsible when residents develop nutrition and hydration issues while in their care. The nursing home controls residents’ food and nourishment. They should also monitor their daily food and fluid intake, screen residents for dehydration and malnutrition, and encourage them to eat and drink. They should assist residents who are incapable of feeding themselves.

As with many instances of nursing home neglect, negligent staffing is a problem. A nursing home can’t care for their residents when high staff turnover, overwork, and lack of training are an issue. In most cases, the nursing home and its administration are responsible for employee-related negligence issues. Depending on their employment status, subcontracted employees or medical personnel may also share liability.

  • Administrator/Nursing home liability: A nursing home and its administrators are responsible for their employees’ negligent acts.
  • Employee’s liability: When the nutritional staff, care workers, assistants, or other workers are employees acting within the scope of their jobs, their employer is liable for their actions.
  • Medical negligence: A doctor or nurse who is in charge of nursing home residents’ healthcare needs is responsible when he or she fails to diagnose an obvious medical condition. Even when doctors are facility employees, they often have malpractice insurance to provide coverage for their errors and omissions.
  • Contract employees’ liability: When a healthcare worker is a subcontracted non-employee, his or her liability exposure is usually governed by any hold harmless agreements or indemnification arrangements in their contract.

Charleston nursing homes are also subject to criminal penalties when they violate South Carolina’s Adult protection Codes, §43-35-5. When a nursing home’s standards don’t comply with federal Public Health Regulations, §42-483, they risk Medicare penalties.

What Damages Can a Nursing Home Resident Recover for Dehydration or Malnutrition Injuries?

A settlement for an injured nursing home resident will include money for economic damages and general damages. Under certain circumstances, an injured plaintiff may also receive a punitive damage award.

Economic or special damages are costs paid for medical treatment and other out-of-pocket expenses. Medical costs will vary depending on the consequential medical conditions the malnutrition or dehydration causes, including:

  • Doctor bills and medications;
  • In-patient hospital costs;
  • Physical and psychological therapy;
  • Prosthetics and mobility equipment;
  • Lost earnings capacity; and
  • Funeral and burial expenses.

General damages reimburse an injured victim for the value of emotional, psychological, and other subjective considerations include the following:

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Loss of spousal relationship;
  • Diminished family relationships;
  • Lost bodily functions;
  • Scars and disfigurement; and
  • Wrongful death.

When an injured person’s attorney litigates a malnourishment or dehydration case, a jury may award punitive damages as outlined in SC Code §15-32-510. The plaintiff must show “…clear and convincing evidence…” that defendants acted out of “…willful, wanton, or reckless conduct.”

Can a Nursing Home Successfully Defend a Dehydration or Malnourishment Case?

Despite obvious negligence and medical negligence issues, some nursing homes will always choose to defend malnourishment and dehydration cases. They must participate in mandatory ADR before defending a medical negligence case. They can still refuse to settle and take their chances in court. Nursing homes present their evidence and let a jury decide if their defenses are valid, such as:

  • No negligence: If a nursing home convinces a jury that they weren’t negligent, they can avoid an adverse judgment.
  • Comparative negligence: If a defendant nursing home convinces a jury that the plaintiff was also negligent, South Carolina’s Modified Comparative Fault law allows a jury to reduce an award by the injured person’s negligence percentage. The plaintiff may collect damages as long as their percentage doesn’t exceed 51 percent.
  • Damage defense: Dehydration and malnourishment can cause a number of medical problems. Some nursing homes defend against an injured resident’s damages by claiming the subsequent injuries are unrelated.

Our attorneys have faced many nursing homes defendants in the courtroom. We’ve prepared our clients’ cases thoroughly and presented strong evidence that overcame their defense strategies.

Charleston Nursing Home Dehydration and Malnutrition Attorneys

If your loved one is a victim of neglect by a nursing home, contact the Hughey Law Firm. Our attorneys have represented injured clients in the Charleston metro region and throughout South Carolina. We are also licensed in North Carolina and Georgia. Our law firm handles cases on a contingency basis: we don’t charge our clients attorney’s fees until we resolve their cases.

Call us at (843) 881-8644 or complete our contact form at Hughey Law Firm online. We’ll arrange a free consultation to determine if we can help you.