Preventing Dehydration in the Elderly
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the warm weather, however, as temperatures rise and we spend more time outdoors, the risk of dehydration becomes higher – particularly 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. In this article, we’ll explain the risks, signs and symptoms of dehydration in elderly people 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.
It’s also important to ensure you’re monitoring your loved ones in the heat, as you’ll need to act quickly if you spot the symptoms of dehydration in elderly people.
Dehydration can happen more easily if you have:
- vomiting or diarrhoea
- 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 in elderly people:
- 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. Untreated symptoms of dehydration in elderly people can lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs) and in some cases, cause seizures and kidney failure.
Signs of severe dehydration in elderly people:
- 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 see any of these more severe symptoms, it is recommended that you ring 999 straight away and seek medical attention.
Why is the risk of dehydration in the elderly much higher?
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.
How to prevent dehydration in the elderly
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 a dehydrated 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, diarrhoea, or vomiting, it is imperative that any fluid lost is replaced. Symptoms of dehydration in elderly people can present in the winter too, not just in 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 or zero 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.