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Preventing Dehydration in the Elderly: Staying hydrated in Summer months

For the past couple of months, the weather has been beautiful in many areas of the UK. Temperatures have reached around 30 degrees allowing many of us to enjoy the outdoors and our gardens a little more, during lockdown.

However, as temperatures soar and we become more active, the risk of dehydration becomes higher, leaving the elderly more vulnerable. Not getting enough fluids, particularly when it is hot outside, can pose negative health risks for those of an older age. This blog post aims to inform you of the reason why the elderly are more at risk, signs, and symptoms of dehydration, and how you can prevent it from happening.

What is dehydration?

Dehydration is where your body loses more fluid than what it takes in. For example, you may experience dehydration from sweating too much and not replacing this with drinking enough fluid. You may lose fluid through exercise or staying out in the sun for too long. Dehydration can also occur when a person drinks too much alcohol.

Dehydration can happen more easily if you have:

  • diabetes
  • vomiting or diarrhoea
  • heatstroke
  • drunk too much alcohol
  • sweated excessively after exercising
  • a high temperature of 38C and above
  • been taking medicines that make you need to go to the toilet more (diuretics)

Signs and symptoms of dehydration

According to the NHS, these symptoms are key in recognising the first signs of dehydration:

  • feeling thirsty
  • dark yellow and foul-smelling urine
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • feeling tired
  • dry mouth, lips, and eyes
  • emptying your bladder very little, and fewer than 4 times a day

It is also important to note that if dehydration goes unchecked, it can have more serious implications. Dehydration can lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs) and in some cases, cause seizures and kidney failure.

Signs of severe dehydration:

  • Little or no urination
  • Dark coloured urine
  • skin that stays folded when pinched
  • low blood pressure
  • rapid breathing
  • feeling fatigued 
  • feeling confused and disorientated
  • dizziness that does not subside when standing
  • a weak or rapid pulse
  • fits/ seizures

If you present any of the more severe symptoms, it is recommended that you ring 999.

Why elderly people are more at risk of dehydration

As we age, our body’s ability to retain water and adapt to change in temperature can become difficult. It is also suggested that the sense of thirst decreases with age. By the time an elderly person feels thirsty, they may already be dangerously low in fluid intake. Medications such as corticosteroids, laxatives, antihistamines, and Diuretics can also affect hydration levels.

Preventing dehydration

Generally speaking, the best way to stay hydrated is to make sure you drink plenty of water. The NHS recommends 1.2 litres of water which is the equivalent of 6-8 glasses a day.

However, the best way to calculate this is to drink as much as you lose. If an elderly person is sweating or urinating more frequently, then their fluid intake should increase to balance this out. Similarly, if a loved one is suffering from an illness that causes fever, diarrhea, or vomiting, it is imperative that any fluid lost is replaced.

Dehydration can happen in the winter, not just the hotter seasons.

You may find that some elderly people may need a different type of cup to drink from. Colourful cups can be far more appealing – particularly if they have dementia or impaired vision. Beakers with handles are also very useful for those with mobility issues, allowing them to grasp their drink comfortably, whilst avoiding any spillage.

It is also important to note that drinking water is not the only option. low sugar/ no added sugar squashes are just as good and can be a great way to encourage an elderly person to drink more. There are also loads of foods that can keep you hydrated too such as cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, watermelons, grapes, and peppers.

Looking for support?

At Trinity Homecare, we offer both visiting and live-in care services to support you or your loved ones. We work with a variety of conditions and have specially trained carers who can support you straight away.

Why not book a call with us today to find out more or download our visiting care brochure or live-in care brochure.

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