Dehydration In the Elderly

 

this image shows water being poured into a glass

How to avoid dehydration and  ten top tips to keep the elderly well hydrated.

  1. Introduce more juicy fruits such as melons and grapes
  2. Add sugar free squash to water if they don’t like plain water
  3. Ice lollies in the Summer months
  4. Ice cubes
  5. watery soups and consome in cooler months
  6. Jelly made with water and containing juicy fruits
  7. Encourage taking a sports water bottle out at all times and take regular sips
  8. Tea and coffee make you need the loo more, try and avoid too much of either
  9. Drink water first thing in the morning when most dehydrated
  10. Avoid too much alcohol.

What is dehydration and how does it happen in someone elderly.

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more water than it takes in and is often accompanied by disturbances in mineral salt or electrolyte balance – especially regarding the concentrations of sodium and potassium.

How is dehydration in the elderly caused ?

Mild dehydration is common and usually caused by not drinking enough fluids throughout the day and does often occur following a bout of diarrhoea .

What are the consequences of dehydration in the elderly ?

A loss of body water equivalent to about 1% of body weight is normally compensated within 24 hours. Thirst stimulates drinking, so intake is increased and there is also a reduction in water loss by the kidneys.

If losses are greater than this the body simply slows down with a potential reduction in both physical and mental function and they may experience a difficulty in regulating temperature and it can affect the heart and cardiovascular system.

Mild dehydration causes symptoms like thirst, headache, weakness, dizziness and fatigue and generally makes people feel tired and lethargic. Symptoms of moderate dehydration may include dry mouth, little or no urine, sluggishness, a rapid heartbeat and lack of skin elasticity.

Severe dehydration  however is serious and can be a life-threatening medical emergency, and is characterized by extreme thirst, no urine, rapid breathing, altered mental state and cold, clammy skin.

Dehydration that causes a loss of 10% or more of body weight can be fatal.

Chronic dehydration can increase the risk of infection, particularly of the urinary tract. The kidneys and other major organs that receive a decreased blood flow may begin to fail. Kidney failure is common occurrence, although reversible if it is due to dehydration and is treated early. Decreased blood supply to the brain may cause confusion, impairing both cognitive function and coordination often mistaken for dementia.

How much should the elderly be drinking ?

The European Hydration Institute recommend that elderly people try and drink 2-2.5 litres of water a day and the colour of someone’s urine is a good indication of dehydration. Ideally it needs to be a pale straw colour.

With age, the body loses its ability to detect thirst and to stay sufficiently hydrated, elderly people should not always wait until they are thirsty to have a drink. To prevent dehydration elderly people should get into the habit of drinking one or two glasses of water or squash with each meal and drink occasionally during the day when they aren’t eating.

Usually people drink when they are thirsty, and simply relying on the thirst signal will normally ensure that they drink enough to stay well hydrated. But by the age of 60, if people only drink when they are thirsty, they may not get as much water as they need. The problem continues to get worse as they get older.

Dehydration can cause serious problems in older adults. Elderly people are at greatest risk of dehydration and its potentially life-threatening consequences. Those aged between 85-99 years are six times more likely to be hospitalized for dehydration than those in their 60’s.

Caron

Award-winning blogger and care columnist for Devon Life magazine, Caron also campaigns for recognition of the needs elderly people and their carers. Designer and creator of the award-winning Dementia Assistance Cards which are free to all, and helping thousands of people globally Caron is passionate and committed to making a difference

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