One of the best methods to lessen the risk of dehydration is to assist an older person in increasing her fluid intake, as you’re attempting to do.
So, how do you go about doing it? The best techniques, according to studies and practical experience, are:
1. Providing a drink to the elderly person on a regular basis, preferably on a timetable
2. Providing refreshments that the person appears to enjoy,
3. When it comes to elderly individuals, don’t expect them to drink a lot at one sitting.
4. Taking care of any urinary incontinence difficulties that are preventing the client from drinking frequently.
What is dehydration and how does it happen?
Dehydration occurs when the body’s cells and blood vessels do not have as much fluid as they should.The body normally acquires and loses fluid as a result of what we eat and drink, as well as urination, sweating, and other physical activities. However, if we continue to lose more fluid than we consume, we may become dehydrated.
When a person becomes dehydrated, the body is programmed to send a thirst signal to the brain. The kidneys are also intended to begin concentrating urine, resulting in less water loss.
Unfortunately, as we become older, the body’s processes for preventing dehydration become less effective. Thirst signals in older persons have decreased, and they are also less able to concentrate their pee.
Other factors that put older adults at risk include:
- Chronic problems with urinary continence, which can make older adults reluctant to drink a lot of fluids
- Memory problems, which can cause older adults to forget to drink often, or forget to ask others for something to drink
- Mobility problems, which can make it harder for older adults to get something to drink
- Living in nursing homes, because access to fluids often depends on the availability and attentiveness of staff
- Swallowing difficulties
Acute illness or another occurrence can also cause dehydration. Problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and infection can cause people to lose a lot of fluid and become dehydrated. Hot weather, of course, raises the danger of dehydration.
Finally, older persons are more likely to use medications that raise the risk of dehydration, such as diuretics, which are commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure or heart failure.
In a study of older persons in residential care in the United Kingdom, blood testing revealed that 46% had impending or current dehydration.
How is dehydration treated?
The treatment of dehydration depends on:
- Whether the dehydration appears to be mild, moderate, or severe
- What type of electrolyte imbalances (such as high/low levels of sodium and potassium) appear on laboratory testing
- If known, the cause of the dehydration
Mild dehydration can usually be treated by having the person take more fluids by mouth. Generally, it’s best to have the person drink something with some electrolytes, such as a commercial rehydration solution, a sports drink, juice, or even bouillon. But in most cases, even drinking water or tea will help.
Mildly dehydrated older adults will often perk up noticeably after they drink some fluids, usually within 5-10 minutes.
Moderate dehydration is often treated with intravenous hydration in urgent care, the emergency room, or even the hospital. Some nursing homes can also treat dehydration with a subcutaneous infusion, which means providing fluid through a small IV needle placed into the skin of the belly or thigh. This is called hypodermoclysis, and this is actually safer and more comfortable for older adults than traditional IV hydration.