Dehydration in the elderly is a serious widespread condition that is easily overlooked. Thankfully, there are a number of small and easy steps to take that make it possible to prevent dehydration in the elderly and avoid further health complications as a result. Here are 5 tips for preventing dehydration in the elderly, whether at home or in a senior care facility.
Preventing Dehydration in the Elderly Tip #1: Variety
Having to drink the same liquid in the required amounts every day can be discouraging. Although it is important to drink water on a regular basis, the body also benefits from the liquid in other water based drinks and foods, like a glass of natural juice or a snack of watermelon wedges. The advantage of having a variety of types of liquids and water-based fruits and vegetables around the house is that it increases motivation to eat or drink and it therefore increases chances of keeping hydrated.
One of the issues that can affect how much an elderly person consumes is the convenience of getting a drink. If they are upstairs and would like a drink of water but all the glasses are downstairs, they might be discouraged to go get one. Keep a bottle of water and glasses handy next to the elderly person’s bedside, or consider investing in a water dispenser that will be close to their preferred place of seating. Having drinks and hydrating foods easily accessible as they move around the house or nursing home facility is important.
3. Reminders and Counting Down
It can be helpful to have a daily visible reminder for an elderly person of how much liquid he or she needs to consume every day, which is generally eight glasses a day, and be able to mark down how much they have had and how much they have left to go. Be careful not to make it feel too much like a chore, however. Even for the caretaker’s sake, having a way to keep track and set reminders will help ensure that the patient is getting enough liquid to prevent dehydration in the elderly.
4. Avoiding Diuretics
There are some common drinks which have caffeine and can increase the chance of dehydration in the elderly as they cause the body to release more liquid. These include tea, coffee and caffeinated soft drinks. Replace caffeinated beverages with decaffeinated versions of the same products, or offer alternatives such as water infused with electrolytes or vitamin-rich juice mixes.
5. Address the Fear of Incontinence
As people age, it’s not uncommon to have weakened pelvic muscles and fear having ‘accidents’, especially at night. Helping the elderly to feel comfortable will make drinking enough liquids a less stressful and potentially embarrassing process. Ensuring that the bulk of liquids are consumed earlier in the day, emphasizing the importance of using the bathroom before bed, and using incontinence-friendly undergarments are all ways to safeguard against accidents and help prevent dehydration in the elderly.
While it can seem daunting to consume a full 64 ounces of liquid a day at any age, it’s very important to make sure that the elderly stay well hydrated. Hopefully by using some of these tips, caregivers will be able to combat dehydration in the elderly population, helping patients to feel more comfortable and healthy in their homes and care facilities.