The Importance of Keeping Hydrated

As part of Nutrition and Hydration Week and our #StayNourished campaign, we wanted to highlight the importance of hydration in older people.

The maintenance of fluid balance throughout the systems of the body becomes less efficient in older people, which makes them more susceptible to becoming dehydrated.

The possible signs and symptoms of inadequate hydration are as follows,  however, these may be due to another cause, such as normal age-related changes, dementia or the side effects of medication.

• Thirst, headache, dry mouth or lips
• Tiredness, feeling dizzy or lightheaded
• Small amounts of dark coloured urine, concentrated urine
• Dry sunken eyes, fragile skin, confusion

If you are caring for an elderly person, there are ways in which you can help prevent dehydration, some of which are as follows:

• Recognising the early warning signs
• Planning visits around mealtimes to get a sense of what they are drinking and if they have any difficulties drinking
• Sitting down and having a ‘cup of tea’ socially with relative or friends
• Encouraging around eight drinks per day such as after each meal and snack time
• Having a readily available wide range of drinks at the right temperature
• Encouraging foods which are high in fluid content
• It is often more effective to offer a drink rather than ask if the individual would like one
• Time spent preventing inadequate hydration means less time dealing with the associated problems.
• Aim for the best you can do. Small steps can be effective especially as older people find it difficult to change their routines
• Emphasise the importance of good hydration to the individual.

There are other creative ways to improve hydration. High fluid foods all contribute valuable fluid and may be more enticing for the individual. Try offering any of the following;  ice-lollies, jelly and milk puddings, pureed fruit, cut up water-rich fruit or vegetables such as melon and cucumber and soups

This information has been taken from the collaborative work between Kent Surrey and Sussex Academic Health Science Network, Wessex Academic Health Science Network and NE Hants and Farnham CCG, highlighting the importance of improving hydration among older people in care homes and the community.