Avoiding Dehydration: Tips for older people

Our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water and this amount is needed for us to function well, both mentally and physically. When we lose water from the body, we need to replace what has been lost to ensure we don’t become dehydrated. Breathing, digestion and sweating are all ways in which water can leave the body and sometimes we might not even realise it!

As we age, it is common for our senses to decline and we can become unaware of simple, basic needs. For the elderly and people living with dementia, dehydration is not unusual. By the time they actually feel thirsty, essential fluids could be very low and this can lead to further problems. A number of older people also have medical conditions or take medications, such as laxatives or diuretics, which lead to fluid imbalances in the body so it’s really important that hydration is monitored.

Here are just some of the issues dehydration can cause:

- UTI’s (Urinary Tract Infections)
- Dizziness
- Headaches
- Constipation
- Fatigue
- Likeliness of falls
- Dry mouth 
- Mood swings or irritability
- Lack of circulation in the body
- Low blood pressure

In some severe cases, dehydration can cause kidney failure, seizures, hypovolemic shock (severe fluid loss which makes it impossible for the heart to pump a sufficient amount of blood to your body), fainting, falling, organ failure, hospitalisation or possibly even a coma. If an older person shows any of the above symptoms, they should be encouraged to rehydrate as soon as possible either by drinking fluids or eating foods which have a high volume of water.

A good way to tell if someone is dehydrated is to look at the colour of their urine. If the urine is light or the colour of water, they should be well hydrated. If the urine is dark and strong smelling it is likely they are dehydrated and something should be done immediately.

For older adults in particular, hydrating throughout the day should be part of their routine. This doesn’t have to be continuously drinking water, as some people might find that too much or uninspiring! When it comes to meal times, it’s a good idea to incorporate foods and drinks which contain lots of water. Soups, broths, vegetables and tea or weak coffee might be a good option for older people who prefer savoury foods. Whereas ice pops, smoothies, fruit, milkshakes and fruit juice/squash may be preferable to those with a sweeter palette.

At Home Instead Brighton, Hove and Shoreham, we accompany many families through the ageing journey to ensure loved ones continue living independently and maintain a healthy, happy lifestyle. We listen, respond and tailor our services to your needs. If you would like to speak to someone at Home Instead Brighton, Hove and Shoreham please don’t hesitate to get in touch - you can call Liz on 01273 284090 or email [email protected].