Elderly people are at a higher risk for dehydration, so it’s vital to be aware of the signs and understand how to prevent it.
Often overlooked, dehydration is an important concern for all age groups, but older people are more susceptible to it as they have less water in their bodies because of the way one’s body composition changes with age. It can be exacerbated further if one has an impaired sensation of thirst due to age-related changes or conditions that impair one’s cognition like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia or in those who have suffered a stroke. In such cases, one is unable to recognise the primary mover to consume water—thirst. This results in a reduced intake of fluids and higher probability of becoming dehydrated. There are also cases where medications may increase one’s risk of dehydration as they could include diuretics and laxatives, which causes the body to lose more fluids than retain it. Some people may even intentionally consume less water if they are incontinent. Finally, as one ages, the efficiency of the kidneys declines, which could cause one to lose more water.
Dehydration comes with various health risks such as kidney stones and kidney failure, seizures, difficulty walking—which could lead to falls—, rapid heart rate, impaired cognitive performance, constipation, overall weakness, low blood volume shock, and more.
Signs of dehydration:
What makes dehydration slip under the radar is that its early symptoms are often linked to other medical conditions, as side effects of medicines, or as signs of ageing. These symptoms, which all caregivers should look out for, include:
– Dry mouth
– Muscle cramps
– Dark urine, less frequent urination
– Sunken eyes and dry skin
This is not an exhaustive list, and it’s important to keep in mind that symptoms may vary from person to person; ensuring the ideal fluid intake is the most important step in preventing dehydration.
The first step is to determine how much water one should be consuming per day, as that amount will vary from person to person, depending on any medication they may be taking or if they have certain health conditions. Consult a healthcare practitioner to understand what the right amount is and work up to that goal gradually. Next, make sure that fluids are placed in accessible places in case one has any physical difficulties. The intake should be monitored so that one is aware of the level of hydration. Understand if they prefer warm or cold fluids, or if they prefer an aid to drink it with (like a straw or a lid). Some people may find the taste of water to be too bland, so try and incorporate alternatives into the mix as well. That could include watered-down juices (pre-packaged juices tend to come with extra sugar) and flavoured water (simply immerse a slice of a lemon or an orange, or even a handful of mint leaves, into the water). Both coffee and tea are diuretics so they shouldn’t count towards one’s daily hydration goal. There are also various foods that are hydrating in nature, such as soups, fruits like melons and tomatoes, and yoghurt. It’s important to specifically ask about incontinence as many may not bring it up themselves. If they are experiencing it, appropriate treatment under the healthcare practitioner’s guidance should be implemented.
If your loved ones live alone, help them set reminders on their phones that are specifically for drinking water. It is best to consume smaller amounts of water frequently as opposed to large amounts in one go. Try and minimise water intake at night as that can prevent one from having to wake up to use the bathroom. Engage your loved ones and caregivers and help them understand the importance of proper hydration and the benefits that come with it.
At Seva At Home, we produce a wealth of free health information to help elders live healthier, happier lives. This has been produced by independent research carried out by the Seva At Home team. This information is not a replacement for medical advice. Please consult your physician for relevant medical diagnosis and advice.
To learn more about our home care services in India, contact our caregiving team today at +1 (603) 718-4828 if you are based in North America, or at 1800-120-800-003 if you are based in India.