Recovery from dehydration in elderly is absolutely essential if your loved one is to maintain good health.
Dehydration can have dangerous effects on the body and the brain in people of any age, but the impact on elderly can be severe.
As a carer, if your loved one becomes dehydrated, you should know how to support their recovery.
This article will explore recovery from dehydration in elderly and what steps to take to help your loved one.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Dehydration can occur at any time during the year, though it is more common in hot weather.
- Symptoms of dehydration can be varied, so it’s worth providing hydration support if your loved one seems out of sorts.
- Help your loved one stay hydrated with liquids and water rich foods, plus hydrating gummies for dementia.
- If your loved one becomes severely hydrated, the consequences can be serious and medical intervention, such as an IV drip at hospital may be necessary.
What is dehydration?
Water is an integral part of our bodies, making up around two thirds of their overall composition.
We become dehydrated when the body loses more fluid than it takes in, which upsets the fine balance of minerals.
Dehydration is therefore a state in the body in which water levels have decreased significantly and can cause harm.
Are you worried about a loved one?
Why are elderly at risk of dehydration?
Elderly people are at higher risk of becoming dehydrated with longer lasting consequences due to a number of factors.
This is because we lose fluids through urination, sweating and breathing and elderly people may have problems replacing them.
This can be due to naturally occurring factors such as age, which causes change in water and sodium levels.
As well as external factors such as medications or conditions that cause them to lose water or forget to do so.
How do you know if recovery from dehydration in elderly is needed?
Risk of losing fluid makes the job of carers supporting recovery from dehydration in elderly so important.
If someone you care for seems sluggish or out of sorts, it’s important to prioritise hydration.
And if, after a hydrating drink, they seem more perky and alert, it’s likely that mild dehydration is the cause.
It’s better to prevent dehydration in elderly all together, but keep reading to learn about rehydration and recovery.
What are the symptoms of dehydration?
Dehydration occurs in stages and can range from a small inconvenience to a medical emergency.
If you’re worried about your loved one, read up on the symptoms of dehydration in elderly people.
What are the stages of dehydration?
Mild dehydration – It’s usually not serious, but they will be feeling thirsty, so keep on top of providing water and other hydrating methods.
Feeling thirsty, having a headache, or just feeling a bit off may characterise mild dehydration.
Moderate – Moderate dehydration is often treated with intravenous hydration in urgent care, or even hospital.
More symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration
- Dry mouth
- Dark urine in small amounts
- Feeling abnormally tired
- Muscle cramps and joint pain
- Sagging skin that doesn’t bounce back
Severe dehydration in elderly requires urgent medical attention as it could cause urinary tract issues, kidney failure.
Wondering ‘can dehydration cause confusion’?
The answer is yes – confusion and delirium are symptoms of moderate to severe dehydration which needs to be treated fast.
Severe symptoms can also include fever, elevated heart rate, even losing consciousness.
More symptoms of severe dehydration
- Confusion, delirium and hallucinations
- Dizzy spells and lightheadedness
- Elevated heart rate and fast breathing
- Hollow eyes and cheeks
- Chills and/or fever
- Seizures and unconsciousness
What are the causes of dehydration?
In hot weather, the body produces sweat to regulate temperature, so even if you don’t notice it, you are still losing fluid.
If this fluid isn’t replaced it causes a deficit which can lead to dehydration and other ailments such as swollen ankles.
Here’s some more advice on how to get rid of swollen ankles fast if you’re struggling in hot weather.
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Alcohol is well known as a cause of dehydration and can affect people at any age.
It’s no coincidence that many of the symptoms of dehydration are also the symptoms of a hangover!
If you choose to drink alcohol, stick to NHS guidelines and drink plenty of hydrating fluids alongside your beverage of choice.
Read more about the effects of alcohol such as the link between alcohol and dementia here.
Exercising without taking on enough fluid
It’s important to drink water regularly, but especially during exercise, even gentle walks or aqua aerobics.
Any exercise causes us to sweat and breathe more, and makes our body work a little harder.
If you’d like more advice on exercise like getting into shape after 50, check out our guide.
Not feeling thirsty
As the brain ages, thirst receptors change, so many people feel less thirsty as they get older.
This can lead to elderly people refusing drinks because they just don’t feel the need to hydrate themselves.
Unfortunately, as dehydration can cause confusion, this can feed into a dangerous cycle of not drinking enough.
Mobility issues in elderly people can make getting to and from the kitchen to get drinks difficult.
Mobility problems can be as a result of the types of arthritis or even advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease.
Memory loss or cognition issues
These conditions can lead to people experiencing confusion about their thirst symptoms, and also forgetting if they have drunk recently.
Dehydration can then lead to delirium in people living with dementia which can be frightening for all concerned.
Anxiety around continence issues can understandably lead to a reluctance to drink regularly.
Diarrhoea and vomiting can also cause someone to become dehydrated and needs to be monitored to support recovery from dehydration.
Recovery from dehydration in elderly: tips to help your loved one
As older people often eat less as they age, they should try to drink an average of 1.5 litres a day to ensure adequate hydration.
Some of this fluid can come from tea and coffee, though the diuretic effect of caffeine can negate the benefits of drinking these.
This doesn’t all have to come in the form of liquids but through water rich foods and hydration supplements too.
How can I support hydration day to day?
Water rich foods
Provide meals and snacks such as fresh vegetables and fruit or yoghurts, and soups to your loved one.
Eating these water rich foods means they won’t have to be taking lots of loo breaks after drinking quantities of liquid.
Why not try dementia jelly drops for an alternative way to hydrate?
Create an accessible routine
Make having hot and cold drink breaks as part of the daily schedule that they can get used to and expect.
Creating a routine reminds them to hydrate but is great for people who experience dementia sundowning to minimise agitation.
Are you worried about a loved one?
Minimise risk factors
Alcohol consumption should be avoided to keep your loved one healthy, not just hydrated.
You can also do things such as avoid any trips outside during very hot weather
If your loved one isn’t hydrating due to mobility issues, make sure they can easily reach water or squash to avoid this.
Make hydrating part of a social ritual
You can encourage hydration throughout the day by making it into an enjoyable event and a chance to socialise.
Have an afternoon cup of tea, or a refreshing glass of water of squash if they like a sweet treat.
How to support recovery from dehydration in elderly
Keep them sweet
Food such as jelly, melon, ice cream and berries are all high in water, tasty and very easy to eat.
Someone recovering from dehydration might not have an appetite for salad, but they might fancy some sweet fruit or a bowl of jelly.
It’s also a good idea to offer drinks they enjoy, so if they’re not a fan of water, try some weak fruit squash.
Use a hydration supplement
An isotonic drink such as Lucozade can help rehydration and recovery as it contains electrolytes to restore sodium levels.
Oral rehydration sachets available from chemists are also useful for replenishing lost minerals and salts.
Drinking small quantities of milk may help mild dehydration as it contains proteins, minerals and vitamins that support rehydration.
Offer small quantities of fluid regularly rather than a large drink to gulp down, which can cause nausea.
Even if they are confused, give a simple explanation that they are dehydrated and will feel better if they drink more.
If dehydration has become severe, or they aren’t responding to fluid intake, they will need to get an IV drip at hospital.
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