Dehydration Is A Serious Senior Care Problem For The Elderly.

Because seniors are typically engaged in fewer strenuous activities than when they were younger, it may seem counterintuitive to worry about dehydration. But the reality is, as many as 31% of seniors are diagnosed with dehydration, due in part to the normal aging process. In a related study, senior care researchers found that 48% of older adults admitted into hospitals after treatment at emergency departments for unrelated problems, actually had signs of dehydration in their laboratory results.

Seniors become more susceptible to dehydration for several reasons: the body’s ability to conserve water is reduced, and therefore less able to respond to changes in temperature. Aging itself makes people less aware of thirst and also gradually lowers the body’s ability to regulate its fluid balance.

What’s more, older adults, especially those living alone without professional senior care in place, tend to eat less than younger people do. Sometimes they may forget to eat or drink altogether.  These problems are compounded by chronic illnesses such as diabetes, dementia, decreased kidney function, and by the use of certain medications. The danger is that they may not know about their dehydrated condition, which could lead to more serious consequences.

The advantages to seniors staying hydrated are numerous. For instance, studies of elderly patients have shown that dehydration increases the risk for constipation, urinary tract infection, respiratory infection, kidney stones and medicine toxicity. Plus, evidence shows that dehydration can lead to an increase in falls and longer stays in rehab facilities.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Early warning signs of dehydration in seniors may include:

  • Fatigue
  • More noticeable mobility issues, like difficulty walking
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Dry, sticky mouth or nose
  • Cramping
  • Inability to sweat or produce tears
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low urine output
  • Dark urine
  • Constipation

If not addressed in the early stages, increased dehydration can lead to:

  • Confusion and anxiety
  • Hot, dry skin – or, cold, clammy skin
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • And eventually, loss of consciousness
How to Help Prevent Dehydration 

It is crucial, especially during the warmer summer weather, to ensure that seniors are drinking plenty of fluids during the day; eating healthy, water-content foods; checking that urine color is light and output adequate; and contacting the physician immediately if dehydration is suspected. Some suggestions:

  • Seniors should be educated to drink even when they are not thirsty. Keeping a drink next to the bed or their favorite chair could help, especially if they have mobility issues.
  • In addition to a drink with each meal, encourage drinking small amounts of fluids throughout the day, rather than drinking large amounts all at once.
  • Experiment with beverages at different temperatures. Some seniors may prefer hot drinks to cold, or the other way around. Experiment to find out which type they like better. 
  • Try enticing a stubborn senior with smoothies, milkshakes, Ensure, or sports drinks. Sometimes they will like the texture or flavor better and be willing to drink these beverages.
  • Remember that foods high in water, like fresh fruits, vegetables, soups and some dairy products, can help meet their daily water needs.
  • Fear of incontinence can diminish a seniors urge to drink voluntarily. Therefore, encourage them to drink more during the day and limit drinking before bedtime.

Read more about defeating dehydration.

Role of Professional Senior Care and Elderly Home Care Services 

As with most illnesses, prevention is the key. Making sure your loved one stays hydrated now is much easier than treating for dehydration later. Some illnesses show up quite clearly, while others have a more subtle effect on daily living. Dehydration, depending on the severity, sometimes creates only small telltale signs while having a big effect on the body, especially in a senior.

Watching for signs of illness in the elderly can be challenging, especially if a loved one is living alone without formal senior care in place. At Hibernian Home Care, we can help ensure that seniors are staying hydrated. We offer a variety of quality elderly Home Care services, available throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties and the surrounding areas in New Jersey, to meet the unique needs of each client. Contact us at any time to learn more by calling 732-481-1148.