Elderly Dehydration: 14 Tips to Help Caregivers Keep Seniors Hydrated
Elderly loved ones who are suffering from anxiety and depression need a variety of support to help them cope with their condition. This support can include emotional and psychological support, as well as practical help with daily tasks and activities.
Ensuring the elderly are properly hydrated is essential for maintaining their health and well-being. However, caregivers often face challenges in ensuring that aging adults get enough fluids. Dehydration can provoke a variety of symptoms, such as dry mouth, confusion, and dark urine, and can have serious consequences for the elderly, particularly those with chronic illnesses or mobility issues.
This article will discuss the importance of hydration for the elderly, the signs and symptoms of dehydration, the causes, and practical strategies that caregivers can use to help their loved ones stay hydrated. It will also point out products that can be used to help the elderly stay hydrated and provide resources for caregivers looking for more information. Additionally, you can find at the end of the article a printable daily water intake tracker to help you manage your senior’s hydration.
- Reduced sense of thirst
- Mobility issues
- Chronic Illnesses
- Dementia or cognitive decline
- Environmental factors
- Tip 1: Encourage fluid intake
- Tip 2: Make fluids easily accessible
- Tip 3: Use reminders
- Tip 4: Create a hydration routine
- Tip 5: Make water more appealing
- Tip 6: Make it a social activity
- Tip 7: Offer a variety of fluids
- Tip 8: Serve room temperature fluids
- Tip 9: Use adaptive equipment
- Tip 10: Keep them physically active and hydrated between meals
- Tip 11: Serve food with high water content
- Tip 12: Use incontinence products
- Tip 13: Monitor for symptoms
- Tip 14: Consult with healthcare professionals
1. Understanding the cause of dehydration
7 Causes of dehydration
Elderly people are more prone to dehydration as they have decreased thirst sensation and may have difficulty communicating their need for fluids. They also may have health conditions or take medications that affect fluid balance, so it’s important for caregivers to be vigilant and identify the cause of dehydration, in order to overcome it.
1. Reduced Sense of Thirst
As people age, their sense of thirst may decrease, which can lead to reduced fluid intake.
- Solution: Encourage fluid intake, set reminders such as alarm clocks or post-it notes, create a hydration routine, and encourage physical activity
Certain medications can cause increased urination, sweating, or nausea, which can lead to dehydration. Additionally, some medications can also cause alteration in the sense of taste and smell.
- Solution: Talk to your senior’s doctor about possible side effects of their medications and if alternative options are available, and you can also make water more appealing by adding some slices of fresh fruit or citrus drops.
What medications can alter the sense of taste in the elderly?
- Antidepressants: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants can cause a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth.
- Antihistamines: These medications can dry out the mouth and cause a metallic or bitter taste.
- Blood pressure medications: Some blood pressure medications, such as ACE inhibitors, can cause a metallic taste in the mouth.
- Cholesterol-lowering medications: Statins can cause a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth.
- Diuretics: These medications can cause a metallic taste in the mouth.
- Opioids: These medications can cause a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth.
- Chemotherapy: These medications can cause a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth.
- Antacids: These medications may cause a metallic or chalky taste.
3. Mobility issues
Elderly people with mobility issues may have difficulty getting to the kitchen or bathroom to get fluids, or may have difficulty holding a cup or glass.
- Solution: Make fluids easily accessible by always having a bottle or jug of water close to them during day and night time, remove any obstacles that might difficult their access to fluids, and consider using flasks, cups with lids or straws.
Some elderly people may have incontinence, which can make them reluctant to drink fluids for fear of accidents.
- Solution: Use incontinence products such as adult diapers, pads, and undergarments that can help to keep the senior comfortable and clean, and also provide a sense of dignity.
5. Chronic illnesses
Some chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and kidney disease, can affect the body’s ability to retain fluids.
- Solution: Limit intake of fluids with high potassium and phosphorus, such as orange juice and milk, create a hydration schedule for regular water consumption and monitor closely fluid intake and signs of dehydration.
6. Dementia or cognitive decline
Elderly people with dementia or cognitive decline may forget to drink fluids or may not be able to communicate their need for fluids.
- Solution: Place post-it reminders in the house, or set an alarm clock, create a hydration schedule, use adaptive equipment to facilitate fluid consumption, and monitor closely for signs of dehydration.
7. Environmental factors
High temperatures and low humidity can also contribute to dehydration in the elderly.
- Solution: Make sure the room isn’t either too cold or too hot, serve fluids at room temperature, and be sure fluids are easily accessible.
It’s essential to keep in mind that elderly individuals may have multiple reasons for dehydration, and addressing one issue may not solve the problem entirely. Caregivers should take a comprehensive approach and consider all possible reasons for their elderly’s low fluid intake.
2. How to stimulate the fluid intake of the elderly?
Tips to stimulate the fluid intake of the elderly
Keeping the elderly hydrated is crucial for their overall health and well-being. However, as we age, our bodies may not signal thirst as effectively, making it more difficult for seniors to drink enough fluids.
Additionally, incontinence, mobility issues, and medical conditions can also make it challenging for the elderly to stay hydrated. To help overcome these obstacles, it’s important to implement strategies that make drinking fluids more appealing and accessible for the elderly. Here are some tips to help stimulate fluid intake in the elderly such as:
Tip 1: Encourage fluid intake
Encouraging fluid intake in the elderly should be done in a gentle and non-forceful way, and their doctor or a professional should always be consulted in case of any concerns.
Proper hydration is essential for maintaining healthy skin, digestion, and maintaining regular bowel movements. In addition, it can also help prevent constipation, which is a common problem among the elderly.
Tip 2: Make fluids easily accessible
Ensuring that the elderly have easy access to fluids is important for their overall health and well-being. There are several simple ways to make fluids more accessible for them, such as:
- Keep a water jug or water dispenser within easy reach to reduce the need to get up and walk to the kitchen;
- Have a glass of water or bottle next to their bed to facilitate hydration during the night;
- Get adaptive equipment, such as cups with larger handles or straws- make sure that they can easily hydrate themselves;
- Ensure that the individual has proper mobility aids such as wheelchairs, walkers, and canes to get to the fluid source;
- Remove any obstacles that may make it difficult for the elderly person to get to fluids
- Provide assistance with opening containers or pouring fluids if necessary
Tip 3: Use reminders
Reminders are also a very useful tool to encourage the elderly person to drink. These include setting alarms on the phone or clock, placing post-it notes around the house in the fridge or bathroom mirror, or using apps that send notifications to remind them to drink fluids throughout the day.
This is particularly useful for those who may have memory issues or difficulty remembering to drink fluids on their own. These reminders can be personalized to the individual’s needs and schedule and can be set to remind them to drink fluids at specific times of the day or after certain activities. By using reminders, we can help the elderly stay on top of their fluid intake and maintain their hydration levels.
At the bottom of the article, we included a printable water intake tracker that you can place on the fridge’s door, or next to the water dispenser, to help you and your elderly better manage their water consumption.
Tip 4: Create a hydration routine
Planning up a routine for hydration such as having a glass of water after every meal, a mid-morning tea, and a fruit juice at breakfast and in the afternoon snack is also a great way to create habituation to regular fluid consumption.
Tip 5: Make water more appealing
Making water more appealing to the elderly can be a helpful way to encourage them to drink more fluids. Also, some medications can affect the sense of taste and smell, affecting the elderly’s perception of food and water. Some ways to make water more appealing are:
- Adding a slice of lemon, lime, or cucumber to their water, can give it a refreshing and delicious taste;
- Infusing water with fruits like berries, oranges, and mint which can also give it a more interesting taste;
- Serving the drink in a nice glass or a colorful cup, can make the experience more pleasant and enjoyable.
Tip 6: Make it a social activity
Plan and prepare drinks together, such as tea or smoothies, drink with them or invite people over, encourage conversation, and make sure they’re comfortable and relaxed. Keeping them engaged in social activities can help support and maintain their thirst.
Tip 7: Offer a variety of fluids
While water is the best choice for hydration, it can be beneficial to offer other options as well. This can include:
- Fruit-flavored water;
- Herbal tea;
- Natural juice;
This can make drinking fluids more enjoyable and increase the likelihood that the individual will drink more fluids. Additionally, offering a variety of fluids can also help to address any specific dietary needs or preferences of the elderly person. For example, offering caffeine-free options for those who are sensitive to caffeine, or offering sugar-free options for those who are diabetic. Providing a range of options can make it easier for the elderly person to find a drink that they enjoy and will be more likely to drink.
Tip 8: Serve room temperature fluids
Serving drinks at room temperature can be a great way to make them more appealing to the elderly. Cold drinks can be uncomfortable for some elderly people, particularly those with sensitive teeth or those who have difficulty swallowing. Room-temperature drinks can be more comfortable to drink and easier on the throat. Additionally, some elderly people may have a decreased sense of taste or smell and may find that room-temperature drinks have a more pronounced taste. It’s also important to note that some elderly people may have a reduced ability to regulate their body temperature, serving room-temperature drinks can help them avoid feeling too cold or too warm.
Tip 9: Use adaptive equipment
These devices are specifically designed to make it easier for people with disabilities or mobility issues to drink fluids. Examples of adaptive equipment for hydration include:
- Cups with two handles: These cups have two handles on the side, making them easier to grip and hold;
- Weighted cups: These cups have a weight added to the bottom, which helps to keep them stable and prevent spills;
- Bendable straws: These straws have a flexible design that can be bent to any angle, making it easier for the elderly to drink while sitting or lying down;
- Water bottles or cups with measurement markings: This can help older adults to track how much they are drinking throughout the day and ensure they are meeting their daily hydration needs;
- Special lids: There are special lids that can be placed on cups or glasses that have a small opening that allows fluid to be sipped through a straw, this can help prevent spills and make it easier to drink without lifting the cup;
- Reusable water bottles with built-in filters: These can help to improve the taste of tap water and make it more appealing to drink;
- Thermos: These can help to keep fluids cold or warm for extended periods of time, which can make them more appealing to drink;
- Electric cup holders: These holders have a battery-operated motor that helps to lift the cup to the mouth, allowing the person to drink without having to lift their arm.
By using adaptive equipment, the elderly can drink fluids more easily and independently. It’s also a good idea to consult with a therapist or occupational therapist for personalized recommendations based on the individual’s needs.
Tip 10: Keep them physically active and hydrated between meals
Dehydration is also frequent among physically inactive seniors, so make sure your senior keeps, as much as possible, an active lifestyle and drinks enough water between meals.
Encourage the elderly to engage in light physical activity, such as a walk around the neighborhood as it can increase their thirst and fluid intake.
Tip 11: Serve food with high water content
These foods contain a significant amount of water, which can help to replenish fluids lost through sweating, urination, and other bodily functions. Additionally, many foods with high water content also contain essential vitamins and minerals that can be beneficial for overall health. Some examples of foods with high water content that can be served to the elderly include:
- Fruits such as watermelon, melon, grapes, and oranges
- Vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuce, and celery
- Broths and soups
- Popsicles made with natural fruit juice
- Smoothies made with fruits and vegetables
Tip 12: Use absorbent incontinence pads
Dehydration can be a serious concern for elderly individuals who have incontinence, as they may be more likely to avoid drinking fluids in order to reduce the need to use the bathroom or avoid an accident.
Absorbent incontinence pads can provide protection and help to maintain the person’s dignity and independence. Examples of incontinence products include:
- Adult diapers: These products are worn like underwear and provide protection against leaks;
- Absorbent sleepers or sheets: These are absorbent pads that can be placed on a bed or chair;
- Incontinence pants: Pants with built-in absorbent padding;
- Incontinence undergarments: incontinence products designed to look like regular underwear such as incontinence briefs, incontinence boxers and incontinence panties;
Incontinence skin care products: Incontinence can lead to skin irritation and rashes, so it’s important to use products to help keep the skin clean and dry.
Tip 13: Monitor for symptoms
Be aware of the symptoms of dehydration and monitor them regularly. Signs of dehydration may include:
- Dry mouth and skin;
- Dark-colored urine;
- Confusion and disorientation;
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia);
Tip 14: Consult with healthcare professionals
A healthcare professional, such as a doctor or nurse, can assess an individual’s hydration status and provide recommendations for preventing and treating dehydration, such as increasing fluid intake or adjusting medication regimens. They can also monitor for any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the dehydration and provide appropriate medical care.
3. In conclusion
5 Benefits of proper hydration
In conclusion, proper hydration is crucial for the health and well-being of elderly individuals, and caregivers play a vital role in ensuring that their loved ones are getting enough fluids.
By implementing simple strategies such as encouraging regular water consumption, monitoring for signs of dehydration, and providing easy access to water and other hydrating fluids, caregivers can help keep their elderly loved ones hydrated and healthy. It is also important to be aware of any medical conditions or medications that may affect hydration levels and to work with a doctor to develop a personalized hydration plan.
By taking these steps, caregivers can help ensure that their elderly loved ones are getting the fluids they need to stay healthy and comfortable.
IV. Printable daily water intake tracker
Daily monitoring of water consumption
When should seniors go to the hospital for dehydration?
An elderly should seek medical advice if experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Decreased urine production;
- Incapacity to urinate;
- Increased or constant vomiting for more than a day;
- Temperature over 38ºC that doesn’t lower;
- Diarrhea for more than two day;
- Unexplained weight loss.
How much water should the elderly drink per day?
The average quantity of water an adult (elderly or not) should drink per day is between 1.5l and 2l, equivalent to around 8 cups of water daily.
What are the consequences of dehydration in older adults?
Dehydration in the elderly can have serious consequences, both in the short-term and long-term. Some potential consequences of dehydration in older adults include:
- Increased risk of falls: Dehydration can cause dizziness and confusion, which can increase the risk of falls and injuries.
- Impaired cognitive function: Dehydration can cause confusion, memory impairment, and other cognitive problems, which can be particularly concerning for older adults with dementia or other cognitive disorders.
- Impaired kidney function: Dehydration can cause the kidneys to work less efficiently, which can lead to problems with kidney function and an increased risk of kidney stones.
- Increased risk of infection: Dehydration can weaken the immune system, making older adults more susceptible to infections.
- Heat stroke: During hot weather, a lack of fluid intake can cause overheating and heat stroke.
- Constipation: Dehydration can cause the colon to absorb more water from the feces, making them harder and more difficult to pass.
- Cardiac issues: Dehydration can cause an increase in blood viscosity, which can increase the risk of cardiac issues such as heart attacks and strokes.
Increased risk of hospitalization: Dehydration can lead to a variety of health complications that may require hospitalization.