Hydration and the elderly – dangers of dehydration

Dehydration is never good for anyone, but it’s worse for the elderly as it can easily affect the ability of their brain to function and can even be deadly.

Hydration gives you more endurance, lowers heart rate, and improves the recovery time of your body. When you are active, you know how important hydration is. The problem is that as people grow older, their appetite decreases, and they do fewer activities, so hydrating is sometimes overlooked.

With the usual daily activities, up to 2.5 litres of water are lost, but you might not feel signs of dehydration, and you may forget that you need to replenish it. Add to that the fact that many of our elderly do not have enough knowledge of hydration to know when they’re dehydrated. That can be helped, though. Appropriate education and keeping track of hydration can improve their quality of life and reduce hospitalization due to dehydration.

In this article, Homestyle Aged Care, one of the trusted Residential Aged Care homes in Geelong, shares some signs of dehydration that you should watch out for and some tips on how you can improve your hydration:

Signs of Dehydration
Having enough fluid in your body is crucial for continuous blood pumping through your vital organs. If you are dehydrated, organs in your body can start malfunctioning. But how do you know you are dehydrated? Here are some of the signs you should look out for:

Cracked lips
Dry or sticky mucus in the mouth
Confusion and forgetfulness
Increased heart rate
Low blood pressure
Fatigue or lethargy
Muscle weakness or cramps
Low urination or UTI
Sunken eyes

Some of the more severe symptoms may include:

Delirium or psychosis
Urinary problems
Kidney problems
Heat injuries like heat stroke
Hypovolemic shock
Death (in case of extreme dehydration)

How to Improve Hydration
If drinking water is difficult for you, consider the alternatives. For instance, you can drink water infused with fruits. Have lemonade or a non-caffeinated tea. Stay away from alcohol and caffeinated drinks because they are dehydrating.

Consider keeping a journal or downloading an app that can help you track your water intake and remind you when it’s time to rehydrate.

You should also add fruits and vegetables in your diet that are water-rich, like cucumbers, tomato, watermelon, turnips, spinach, brussel sprouts, and more.

Do not wait until you feel thirsty before you consume water. Remember that when you feel thirsty, it’s because your body is telling you that you’re already dehydrated.

Hydration for the Elderly in Aged Care
Aged Care facilities like Homestyle Aged Care manage the residents’ hydration along with their food and medication. This is extremely important, especially for residents with dementia who are likely to forget that they need to drink. Some even lose the ability to drink. These residents as well as those with other conditions are closely monitored.

Care staff offer residents drinks when they eat or take medication and during their activities.

Hydration plays a significant role in maintaining the proper function of organs in the body, especially for the elderly. It is therefore vital that you ensure that you and your elderly loved ones get adequate hydration. By knowing what signs you should look out for and how to improve your hydration, you can avoid dehydration.

Main image: Sandra Seitamaa