How to Prevent Dehydration in Seniors
Dehydration is a particular problem for the elderly, even when it is not hot outside. Dehydrated seniors may be at risk for complications that include loss of balance, kidney problems, and constipation.
Preventing dehydration is thus important. So, why are older adults so much at risk, and what can caregivers and family members do to help?
Dehydration Risk in Older Adults
There are several reasons why older adults are at higher risk for dehydration, and they include:
- Medication side effects. Some common medications, including antidepressants and high blood pressure medications, can increase the frequency of urination.
- Health conditions such as diabetes. Diabetics may need to urinate more often if their blood sugar is a little bit high. Some elderly people may also suffer from an overactive bladder, resulting in frequent urination and nighttime urination. This can be treated.
- Decline in total body fluid. It's normal for seniors to carry less water in their tissue as they get older, reducing water reserves.
- Lowered thirst response. The thirst response reduces with age, and more dramatically in people with cognitive decline.
- Decreased kidney function. Aging kidneys become less effective, which means you waste more water when you urinate.
- Mobility problems that make getting up to get a glass of water more difficult.
All of these can mean that seniors don't drink enough, or may not realize that they need to drink more than when they were younger. Thankfully, home health aides can help.
How Caregivers Can Help Prevent Dehydration
There are a number of simple things people can do to reduce the risk of dehydration in seniors. Here are some things you can do:
- Make sure that your relative gets treatment for anything causing frequent urination. As frequent urination also has other health impacts such as causing insomnia, this is a good idea anyway. Don't assume frequent urination is normal and to be expected. A home health aide can help with this too, as they have the experience needed to see when there is a problem.
- Offer drinks frequently. Generally, you want to offer them on a schedule (this is something home aides are particularly good at ensuring).
- Offer beverages they prefer, but discourage alcohol too often even if they are allowed it; alcohol is a diuretic.
- Help them get a drink when they are thirsty if they have mobility issues or just don't feel like getting up.
- Offer smaller quantities more often, as older people tend not to want to drink too much at a time.
- Ask if they would rather use a straw. Some older people find lifting a glass challenging.
- Serve foods and fruit with high water content. Watermelon is particularly good. In colder weather, consider soup.
- Consider keeping a full water bottle near the person at all times. If they are going out and use a wheelchair, put a bottle in the wheelchair's pocket for them. Put a water bottle next to their favorite chair. That way they can drink a small amount whenever they want.
- Make sure they know they can easily get to the bathroom. Some older people might face dehydration so they don't have to go as often. With some seniors, timed toileting is a good way to ensure that they feel comfortable.
Coffee and tea are also mild diuretics but have little impact on those used to drinking them. It's better to let your loved one have their morning drink without worrying about dehydration, but chain drinking tea should be discouraged. Another thing to watch out for is that some people have issues with citric acid making their bladder more active; if this is the case then avoid citrus fruit and citrus-flavored beverages.
Helping your loved one stay hydrated can be a challenge. There is nothing wrong with getting a home health aide, and they can help make sure that your relative gets enough to drink and stays healthy. Elite Home Health Care can help by providing trained home health aides that are familiar with all the issues seniors might have, including difficulty staying hydrated.