Understanding Dehydration in the elderly
The human body is made up of roughly 65% water which explains why it is so important to drink water and and keep the body working efficiently and effectively. Through mechanisms such as breathing, sweating and going to the loo, water is removed from the body, needing replacing.
There are often other reasons why the body might tend to lose water. A main contender is medication, especially that taken for high blood pressure.
Watch out for salt: too much salt can cause high blood pressure. This may be difficult for the elderly as they often have a reduced sense of taste, resulting in salt being added to food in large amounts!
When water levels in the body have not been replenished dehydration begins. In a healthy individual the first sign is thirst, reminding the body that it needs to drink. Unfortunately old age also brings with a diminished sense of thirst.
Dehydration can creep in and may not be noticed. Many old people can seem confused, tired or listless when really they are just dehydrated.
A good way to determine if someone is dehydrated is examine the colour of their urine. The lighter in colour it is the better hydrated the person is, the darker the more dehydrated.
Often old people do not like to drink water and do not like the thought of drinking at all because they worry about having to go to the toilet. Mobility issues and fears of having to get up during the night can discourage old people from drinking.
If a person does not like plain water, then get them to try other drinks, such as
Make sure that these are provided in cups that can be accessed and reached safely. It may be that a two handled cup or one with a lid needs to be provided.
Certain foods contain lots of water and this can be a useful way to introduce water into the diet. Fruit and vegetables are an excellent choice they provide a variety of vitamins and minerals as well as water. Carbohydrates such as rice and pasta are good choices and mixed together with some protein and veg can make a nutritious and water replenishing meal.
So many old people dislike eating by themselves and even if they are able to look after themselves find preparing and cooking food hard. Eating together in a group, where there is stimulation and socialisation is key to old people eating and drinking well.