Dehydration can have serious consequences for older people and is a particularly common problem for individuals with Dementia. Dehydration can cause a loss of strength and stamina, increasing the risk of further accidents such as falls caused by dizziness. If dehydration is ongoing, it can affect the kidney function and increase the risk of kidney stones. Dehydration can also lead to muscle damage and constipation. If untreated, dehydration can lead to disability, unplanned hospital admissions and even death.
Improving hydration in your residents reduce the anxiety of potential health problems and improves the quality of life for both residents and staff. This blog will provide you with some guidance on how to spot the signs of dehydration and prevent residents from becoming dehydrated.
What signs of dehydration should you look out for in residents?
Symptoms of dehydration can worsen over time. Although they may vary based on the exact age and background of the individual, most elderly dehydration symptoms are similar across all cultures and health conditions. The following symptoms should be identified, treated and monitored for the patient’s ongoing safety by a medical professional:
> Noticeably dry and fragile skin
> Decreased urination and urine output
> Confusion, slow reaction speed and irritability
> Lack of sweating
> Sunken, “tired” eyes and complaints of exhaustion
> Low blood pressure
> Rapid breathing
> Unconsciousness or delirium
Although some of these symptoms may be causes of other health problems, it is important to be proactive and prevent the health problems associated with diabetes from occurring.
Here are some tips you can follow in your care home to prevent residents from becoming dehydrated:
1. Encourage high fluid intake during breakfast
By involving all staff and ensuring residents take a litre of fluid by the end of a relaxed and extended breakfast, individuals have a healthy and calm mind set to start the day. It is recommended for residents to drink up to a litre of fluid between waking and the end of breakfast. A key strategy is ensuring all residents drink well in the morning when they are relaxed and keen to drink. Residents should be encouraged to drink at least a litre of fluid by the end of morning. These fluids can include water with medication, tea, coffee, fruit juice, porridge, supplements and high-protein milk with cereals.
The staff of Alexandra House in Essex, for example, aim to ensure every resident takes 700-800ml of fluid by the end of breakfast in the form of drinks, with a further 200-300ml added to cereals or porridge. The care home staff encourage drinking before and after the morning bath and during breakfast. The staff of the care home claim “all staff in strategies to improve hydration among residents enables a care home to reduce health problems and improve the general atmosphere in the home”.
2. Provide foods that are high in water
Providing liquids to residents is not the only way you can ensure residents stay hydrated. A healthy way to increase the water intake of elderly residents is through adding foods that are high in water to daily meals.
Certain foods that contain a high-water content include a variety of soups, yoghurt, fruits and vegetables. These foods can help seniors meet the daily water requirement. Some foods you can add to residents’ meals to increase hydration include:
> Iceburg Lettuce
3. Address the Fear of Incontinence
It is common for elderly people to have weakened pelvic muscles and fear having ‘accidents’, especially at night. Helping individuals 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 and emphasizing the importance of using the bathroom before bed are actions that will help elderly residents to feel more relaxed and confident. Investing in the correct incontinence products is an efficient way to safeguard against accidents and help decrease the risk of residents becoming dehydrated.
You can read our blog on providing adequate incontinence care here.
4. Ensure drinking is treated as a social activity
Establishing a routine and combining drinking with socialising is an effective way of encouraging elderly people to stay hydrated. It is a good idea to offer one or two drinks during the morning, at lunch, at afternoon tea and during the evening. It has been proven in previous studies that residents eat and drink better when they are with friends and sitting in small groups. Treating drinking and eating as a social activity is a good way of preventing residents from considering drinking to be a chore.
5. Raise awareness amongst your care home about the importance of hydration
Good hydration in people with severe Dementia, in particular, can be difficult to maintain as many people with Dementia no longer experience the thirst sensation. Individuals with Dementia may also forget to remember that they need to drink, or even recognise the purpose of drinking liquid. 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 ensure you write down how much they have had and how much they have left to go. Pay attention to the liquid consumption of each resident without it seeming like too much of a chore. 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.