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Dehydration: The Overlooked Health Risk

Updated: Jun 18, 2021

Drinking a sufficient amount of water each day is necessary for our overall well-being. Water intake helps regulate body temperature, gets rid of waste, protects the spinal cord, and keeps joints lubricated. However, as people age, their sense of thirst dwindles, making them more prone to dehydration.

Although dehydration can start out with mild symptoms, it can quickly become severe in seniors. This is why being able to recognize signs of dehydration is so important.

Nutrition for Seniors with Dementia

Causes of Dehydration

For seniors, insufficient water intake is not the only cause of dehydration. It can also be attributed to:

  • Medications. This particular culprit, especially diuretics and certain blood pressure medicines, could be causing your loved one to urinate more often. Frequent urination results in excess fluid loss.

  • Limited Mobility. For seniors who have difficulty moving or are at greater risk of falling, water may not be within reach. Moreover, immobility can also cause someone to intentionally drink less to prevent frequent trips to the bathroom.

  • Urinary Incontinence. If your family member is afraid of accidentally wetting themselves or the bed, it’s likely he or she will want to limit their fluid intake after a certain time.

  • Illness. Diarrhea, vomiting or fever can contribute to a sudden loss of water and electrolytes in a short period of time. Electrolytes are minerals used by the body to control the muscles, blood chemistry and organ processes.

  • Excessive Sweating. Sweating is the body’s natural way of cooling itself off. Whether it’s caused by exercise or warmer weather, the more your loved one sweats, the more water they lose.

  • Less Muscle Mass. As adults get older, muscle mass decreases at a rate greater than 3% to 8% per decade while accumulating more fat. Muscle contains water; as your loved one loses muscle mass, the body retains less water.

What Should Home Care Aides Look Out For?

Being familiar with the signs of dehydration can help care teams take action sooner. Home Care Aides can first check for a decrease in skin elasticity by simply pulling up the skin on the back of the hand for a few seconds. If the skin stays tented, it could be a sign of dehydration. Other common symptoms to look out for also include:

  • Fatigue. More than just your regular brand of tiredness. Fatigue can make it difficult for someone to get out of bed and function.

  • Muscle cramps. Fluid helps the muscles contract and relax.

  • Dry mouth/tongue. Also called xerostomia. Someone who complains about dry mouth may feel uncomfortable because there’s not enough saliva in the mouth.

  • Dark-colored urine. For the most part, urine should have a light yellow hue. With less water to dilute them, the minerals and chemicals found in urine become more concentrated and appear deeper in color.

  • Headaches. The dehydration headache likely won’t cause facial pain or pressure.

  • Dizziness. Low blood pressure and poor circulation can cause lightheadedness and affect a person’s ability to concentrate.

Serious dehydration symptoms such as confusion, decreased blood pressure or constipation will require immediate medical attention.

Strategies for Staying Hydrated

The best plan of attack is to keep your senior hydrated. Presidio Home Care Aides are highly trained professionals that utilize the following strategies to help your loved ones get enough fluids:

  • Ensure that water is within reach at all times.

  • Make sure your loved one doesn’t skip meals, as meals contribute to fluid intake.

  • Offer hydrating beverages that your loved one enjoys, such as juice, juice-infused water, sports drinks, or Crystal Light.

  • Offer foods with higher water content such as watermelon, cucumbers, and strawberries.

  • Track intake and output to curb incontinence and monitor urine color.

  • Implement easier access to the bathroom if your loved one is concerned about not making it to the toilet in time after drinking fluids.

Dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization in people over 65. With Presidio Home Care’s help, you can stay one step ahead. Contact Us today at 800-567-4117.

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