Dehydration in the Elderly

We are all well aware of the importance of drinking enough water, but this is extremely important for our senior population. Dehydration in the elderly population is a widespread problem. It is a common cause for hospital stays among seniors and it can be deadly. Fortunately, there is a lot that can be done to prevent it. By learning to recognize the symptoms and implementing solutions, you can be proactive in keeping your loved one hydrated.
A person becomes dehydrated when their body has lost fluid and too many electrolytes. Electrolytes are mineral compounds that the body uses to keep a healthy balance of fluids and to regulate temperature. Some medications such as laxatives and diuretics can cause dehydration. Dehydration can also occur during illness, especially one that is gastrointestinal in nature. Another common factor is fear of incontinence. Many seniors have weakened pelvic muscles and fear having “accidents”. This can lead them to limit their liquid intake.

Warning Signs of Dehydration:
-Thirst (some elderly actually have a decreased sense of thirst)
-Dry Mouth, Dry tongue, thick saliva
-Difficult urination and/or reduced urine that is dark yellow
-Urinary Tract Infection
-Muscle Cramps
-poor skin elasticity
If your love one is showing signs of dehydration, call their physician immediately for instructions on treatment. Offer lots of fluids, especially those foods/drinks with sodium and potassium to restore the balance of electrolytes.

Danger Zone Symptoms-Go to the Hospital Immediately!
-Above symptoms worsen
-Shrunken eyes
-Rapid and faint pulse
-Low Blood Pressure
-Rapid Breathing
-Abdominal Bloating
If your loved one has the signs of severe dehydration, they need to be treated at the hospital immediately. They will most likely require IV therapy to replenish electrolytes and fluid.

Thankfully there are some simple steps that you can take to be proactive and hopefully prevent dehydration. Keep water in a convenient location. Perhaps you should consider placing a water dispenser close to your loved one’s favorite chair. Or you can keep a water bottle close by so that they can sip on it throughout the day. If they seemed overwhelmed by the amount of water they need to drink, get creative. A snack of watermelon or a glass of natural juice will also help in the hydration process. Caffeinated beverages put us at increased risk of dehydration. Consider switching to decaf. If incontinence is a factor, address their concern. The bulk of liquids can be consumed earlier in the day, cutting down on nighttime visits to the bathroom. Using incontinence products at night can provide extra reassurance. Keeping your loved one well hydrated is essential to keeping them comfortable and healthy!

Providing Guidance and Care Options for Families