As a caregiver, it can be hard to spot dehydration symptoms in the elderly. Older individuals do not tend to get thirsty as quickly as someone younger, making the signs a challenge to identify. Keeping reading to find the signs to look for and learn some quick tips to make sure the elderly people in your life are staying hydrated.
According to Mayo Clinic, “Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn't have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions.” As we age, we become dehydrated quicker, due to changes in our bodies and the way our kidneys function.
Signs of Dehydration in the Elderly
If you are caring for an elder individual, look for the following signs, especially in the summer months. Each can occur early on in the dehydration process:
- Dry mouth/dry tongue with thick salvia
- Cramping in their limbs
- Crying, but no tears
- Body weakness
- Low urine output
- Dry skin
One of the quickest ways to test if your loved one is dehydrated is to lift the skin on the back of their hand. Take your pointer finger and thumb, pinch a section of skin from the back of their hand, lift up, and let go. If their skin quickly falls down, back onto the top of their hand, they are not dehydrated.
If the signs above are present but ignored, they can become life-threatening and the proceeding symptoms could occur:
- Rapid, but weak heart rate
- Sunken eyes
- Low blood pressure
- No sweating
- Bloated stomach
- Kidney failure
If your loved one has any of these symptoms, and pushing fluids does not help, they need to go to the Emergency Room immediately.
7 Tips to Help the Elderly Stay Hydrated
Hydration in the elderly can be easily managed with these simple tips:
- Encourage fluids. Encourage the elderly people in your life to drink often and regularly. Make sure they have liquids around them at all times. Buy them a refillable water bottle and put it next to their bed or chair if they have mobility issues. If they do not like drinking plain water, try adding some fruit. Berries, lemons, and limes are a great addition to water for flavor. Other items that can help with taste are cucumbers and mint. To really mix things up, try coconut water in addition to these combinations.
- Stay away from caffeine, sugary drinks, and alcohol. If too much coffee, juice, soda, wine, etc. are consumed, each can actually speed up the dehydration process.
- Wear breathable material. Materials such as cotton and linen allow the body to sweat and breathe naturally. Stay away from polyester-based fabrics, rayon, and jeans.
- Take frequent breaks. If doing activities outside in the heat, or even indoors, make sure you are taking rest breaks. The heat can quickly decrease the energy levels of elderly individuals.
- Eat healthy. Many fruits and vegetables contain large amounts of water to help with hydration. Some examples include watermelon, peaches, grapefruit, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
- Act on early signs of dehydration. If the person you are caring for is showing early signs of dehydration, offer them a bottle of water, Gatorade, Powerade or coconut water to replenish their electrolytes quickly.
- Know their medications. Some medications (like diuretics) can cause an elderly person to become dehydrated even faster than normal. Stay mindful of the medications they are taking so you can increase their normal fluid intake if necessary.
Important Note: If you have additional questions or concerns, please speak with your loved one’s physician before making any drastic changes.
How Can Home Care Help Your Loved One?
Home care can help manage elderly dehydration and keep your loved one healthy! Through a personalized plan and companionship, home care ensures your loved one is:
- Getting the right amount of fluids
- Eating well-rounded, healthy meals prepared for them
- Having their medications managed and monitored by a trained caregiver who is aware of any interactions that could cause dehydration, etc.
To find out more about how Commonwise Home Care can help with home companionship services, please call 434.202.8565 today.