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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Dehydration In Elderly?

Do you know that 60% of our body is made of water? It goes without saying that staying hydrated is thus very important for the human body to function properly, and for us to stay healthy.

However, this seems to be an increasing problem for the elderly – many struggle to stay hydrated as they get older because well, simply said, it just becomes harder for their bodies to retain water.

As a result, they are more prone to being dehydrated – a condition where the body loses more fluids than it takes in.

And this is not good.

Why The Elderly Is More Susceptible to Dehydration

A little trivia: the adult body loses up to nearly 2.5 litres of water a day through natural daily activities, hence the saying: drink at least 2 litres of water every day.

The thing is, not many people has this habit – a lot of us drink only when we feel thirsty. And this is exactly where the first reason lays: many elderlies do not actually have good hydration literacy to identify if they were dehydrated.

You see, the thirst response becomes weaker as we age. Given feeling thirsty is your body’s way of letting you know you need water, older adults may not even know that they actually need to drink (and therefore did not drink).

Add that to the fact that there are fewer water reserves available in the body to use due to the decreasing amount of fluid in our bodies as we age, the result? – Dehydration.  

Decreased kidney function is another cause of dehydration amongst the elderly. As with other organs, the kidney’s function also declines naturally with age so more water may be lost through urination.  

Not to mention the health conditions and medications that come with age. Older people tend to have some kind of underlying health conditions one way or the other, and many do have to take medications regularly. We are not saying all, but some of these conditions/medications do lead to an increase in water loss through urination in some cases.

What happens when an elderly is dehydrated?

While the effects of dehydration are pretty much similar for everyone, older adults are actually at a higher risk for the following complications when dehydrated:

  • Constipation
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Kidney problems
  • Loss of balance

It can have a much more deadly impact on an elderly person as dehydration affects the brain’s functioning ability. Endurance decreases, and the heart rate increases. This can potentially lead to more serious medical episodes (such as heart attack) as the body does not have adequate fluid to continue pumping blood through to vital organs. 

Worse, life threatening complications such as hypovolemic shock – drop in blood pressure and oxygen levels due to low blood volume – can happen. For sure, we do not want this to happen to our seniors.

Other serious complications can include:

  • Urinary and kidney problems
  • Seizures (due to low levels of potassium and sodium)
  • Heat exhaustion or heatstroke

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration?

There are a few easy-to-notice signs of dehydration that one should take note of when you have an elderly to care for at home:

  • Fatigue/lethargy
  • Sunken eyes
  • A decrease in urination
  • Muscle weakness and cramps
  • Cracked lips
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion/forgetfulness
  • Deep rapid breathing or an increased heart rate or low blood pressure
  • Dry or sticky mucus around and in the mouth
  • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

These are the more common symptoms that are often observed. Other serious signs that require immediate medical attention include:

  • Trouble with movement or walking
  • Fainting
  • Diarrhea or vomiting that lasts longer than 24 hours
  • Psychosis or Delirium
  • Seizures

Tips to Prevent Dehydration

It is therefore very important that we keep an eye on our elderly to make sure that they are well-hydrated.

Remind them to drink water throughout the day especially during mealtimes and after exercise or exertion. Keep water in places where it is easy to reach, also, implement easier access to the bathroom.

If drinking water is too difficult, you can attempt to swap straight water with alternatives. Fruit or vegetable juice is a good choice, but stay away from caffeinated drinks and alcohol as they do the exact opposite – they dehydrate you.

Additionally, you can encourage them to eat water-rich food. Yep, a lot of our water consumption actually comes from a variety of fruit and vegetables. For perspective, cucumbers alone contain 96% water while tomato, spinach, broccoli and brussels sprouts are other excellent water-rich options.

Get Help from the Professionals

The bottom line is, do not undermine the seriousness of dehydration. In extreme cases, it can lead to death.

The thing is, we may not be available 24/7 to monitor our elderly loved one’s water intake. We need to go to work, have our own life to manage, etc. – we think no one will argue with the fact that becoming a carer for a senior is no easy job.

And that hasn’t even taken into account other conditions that our seniors may be suffering. For example, dementia. To maintain appropriate hydration levels for them in this case becomes a lot more difficult, not to mention all the other aspects of life that you too, have to care for them.

If it becomes a tad too much for you to handle, we suggest getting help in the form of in-home care from the professionals. These are well-trained personnels who know the inside-out in taking care of seniors – ensuring they are well-hydrated is just part and parcel of the job. They are able to assist in so much more other ways – basically, anything that relates to the daily living of a senior will be their forte.

Also, they are trained to care for patients with cognitive impairment or other ailments including dementia so have peace of mind that your elderly is in good hands when you are not available.

Contact us today to find out more.

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