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The importance of regular fluid intake

The importance of regular fluid intake

For optimum health it is vital that the elderly regularly consume fluids and stay hydrated.

The consequences of dehydration

Dehydration has both short and long term consequences for the elderly. In short-term, dehydration can cause the following symptoms and problems:
- Dry mouth and underarms
- Infrequent urination & dark-coloured urine
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Weakness
- Dizziness
- Delirium

Long term dehydration can aggravate pre-existing conditions and create more serious health problems. It can make constipation worse, increase the chances of getting a UTI (urinary tract infection), lead to seizures as a result of imbalanced electrolytes and can affect the function of the kidneys, and in severe cases, even lead to acute kidney failure. For those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, it can also worsen their thinking skills and cause confusion.

Why are seniors more prone to dehydration?

There are a number of reasons why the elderly are more prone to dehydration. Firstly, as we age our body’s adaptive mechanisms, which protect us from dehydration, don’t work as well. Secondly, our kidneys become less efficient at concentrating urine. We also tend to lose water content from our body with aging and many elderly have a reduced thirst perception. Chronic problems can also be the cause of dehydration. Many elderly people suffer from memory problems and forget to drink. Others have mobility issues making it harder for them to access fluids. Urinary incontinence can also make the elderly reluctant to drink more fluids as it may lead to leakage. And medication, such as diuretics, can also increase the risk of dehydration.

How much fluid does an elderly person need?

While there is no prescribed daily fluid intake for the elderly, the 2 litres per day recommended for healthy adults, is a good starting point. However, as 20% of a person’s fluid intake comes from food, and many elderly have a reduced appetite, this may need to be increased.

Tips to stay hydrated

Here are our tips to help an elderly person stay hydrated:
- Keep water nearby so it is easily accessible for drinking.
- Offer fluids regularly throughout the day. A schedule can help with this.
- Offer fluids that the person finds appealing such as tea or squash, as they will be more likely to drink it if they like it.
- Include foods with a high water content in their diet. Fruits & vegetables such as cucumber, lettuce, watermelon and strawberries are great for this. Soups as a meal also work well.
- Set a timer on the persons phone or any other device as a reminder to drink.
- Some elderly do not like to drink in large quantities so offer it to them in smaller amounts more regularly.
- Check that there are no incontinence issues as this may make an elderly person less likely to want to consume fluids. A regular schedule of toilet stops may help with this.
- On hot days, or if the person is unwell, offer fluids more regularly.
- If possible, keep a diary of the persons fluid intake to ensure the person is getting enough throughout their day.

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