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Tackling Dehydration In The Elderly

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What is dehydration?

Dehydration affects all ages, in particular babies, children and the elderly. According to the NHS dehydration is when ‘your body loses more fluids than you take in. If it’s not treated, it can get worse and become a serious problem.’

Our bodies are made up of around 60% of water and drinking the right amount of water helps our organs function, provides us with some of the essential nutrients and helps the heart to pump blood to the muscles. So, whether you enjoy a glass of fruit juice or a hot cup of decaf tea, it’s important to monitor your fluid intake and know how to avoid getting dehydrated.


Risks Of Dehydration In The Elderly

Older people are generally at a higher risk of dehydration as they have a lower percentage of water in their bodies. According to Hydration for Health, between the age of 20 and 80, “the amount of body water decreases by 15%,” which is about six litres of fluid – making the elderly more susceptible to dehydration.

As we age, you may find your sense of thirst naturally weakens and therefore, your fluid intake decreases. Thirst is a sensation that can provoke dehydration and not realising when you need water is a high-risk factor.

Furthermore, with aging our kidneys lose the ability to retain water, putting the elderly at a higher risk than younger adults. We rely on our kidneys to retain water when our bodies need it most, but when they are unable to function properly, water intake will need to increase to replenish the fluids.

Other risk factors include medication, forgetfulness, needing assistance with eating and drinking, and the condition you are living with. For example, if you are living with dementia water loss can be worse, as according to Alzheimers.org, individuals may simply forget to drink or find it difficult to communicate that they are thirsty.


Effects Of Dehydration

With age, our bodies naturally change and the function of our organs begins to decline, which is why dehydration is a bigger risk for the elderly.

As we age, our joints start to get stiff, but a few glasses of water or fruit juices can help lubricate your joints, protect sensitive tissues and the spine. Dehydration is said to cause the spinal discs to lose water, resulting in back pain. The inner and outer rings of the discs are filled with water, which helps support the spine. They lose water every day, so it is important to keep drinking to keep backaches at bay.

Dehydration can also lead to seniors feeling confused, which is especially difficult for those living with dementia, as the symptoms of dementia can get worse.

Plus, the elderly are more prone to be hospitalised and if dehydration isn’t treated the right way, it can be life-threatening.

Prevention is the best way to tackle dehydration. Keeping up with fluids and snacking throughout the day will help you stay hydrated, maintain your body temperature, aid digestion, and provide your body with the essential nutrients to function.


How To Identify The Warning Signs Of Dehydration

It is important to know what to look for when you are feeling dehydrated, so you can treat it before it becomes worse. Common signs include dry mouth, tongue and lips, confusion, dizziness, and nausea. You may notice that your urine is more concentrated and has a strong odour, which is an indicator of dehydration.

In severe cases, low blood pressure, muscle cramping, and a rapid heartbeat are all warning signs of dehydration – so you must be aware of these symptoms and drink plenty to prevent it.


How Helping Hands Can Help You Tackle Dehydration

Our Helping Hands private carers will be at hand to provide you with the support you need at home. Whether you need care for yourself or your loved one, you can always count on us.  As well as providing a hand around the home, our wonderful carers will monitor your fluid intake. If you need assistance with mobility, we will help aid you with drinking – whether you need a straw, cup or one with a lid – we will always encourage you to live life independently.

Whether you choose to have a carer on a visiting or live-in care basis, we’ll ensure that there is water by your bedside, your favourite chair and at arm’s length. We can also help with preparing meals, ensuring you eat foods with high water content, including fruits and soups.

All our carers are fully trained to provide you with the possible care. Plus, we are fully regulated and monitored by the Care Quality Commission and Care Inspectorate Wales, so you and your loved ones can have peace of mind that you’ll be well looked after by expert carers. For more information on our elderly care services, contact us to see how we can support you or your loved one.


Page reviewed by Carole Kerton-Church, Regional Clinical Lead on February 2, 2022

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