Staying hydrated is important for everyone, but as we get older it is even more important to make sure we are getting enough fluids. Certain diagnoses, such as dementia or heart failure, can provide various challenges to proper hydration. Here are some ways to combat dehydration:
• Keep a glass of water (or another non-sugary drink)
nearby all the time and make sure you’re sipping on it regularly.
• Know your numbers! Everyone has different needs for fluid intake based upon their age, gender, activity level, and chronic illnesses. For example, a healthy elderly person needs about 1.5-2 liters of fluid every day, while someone with severe heart failure may have a much lower number. Be sure to consult with your physician to make sure your fluid intake goals are accurate!
• Remember that many foods have fluid too, especially soups and certain fruits, like grapes and melons.
• Be careful when you’re outside in hot weather! It is easy to sweat away fluid quickly, so make sure you bring along some extra water!• Get a fun water bottle with measurement markings. You can fill it with your water needs for the day and then watch as you get closer to meeting your goal as the day goes on!
Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other disorders can make hydration especially important. They sometimes forget to drink, or do not have a strong sensation of thirst. Here are some ways you can help those you care about that just aren’t drinking enough:
• Find other drinks they like. If they’re not drinking water, maybe iced tea or seltzer would be more enticing? Maybe they prefer their favorite cup or a straw. Catering to small preferences can lead to big gains!
• Remind them to drink regularly. Give them a small glass (1/2 cup or less) to finish then leave them with more to sip on.
• Incorporate foods high in fluid that your loved one enjoys into their diet. Just be mindful of sodium and sugar contents!
• Try Jelly Drops, a hydrating treat that is brightly colored, sweet, and low in sugar.
• Drink with them! Get a glass for yourself, a glass for your loved one, and join them.
• Encourage nutritional drinks, such as Ensure, especially when your loved one is struggling to eat enough as well.
Always look out for signs of dehydration in yourself and in the elderly
• Fatigue, or feeling tired or sluggish
• Increased heart rate
• Low blood pressure
• Feeling dizzy or light-headed
• Dark-colored urine
• Dry mouth
Dehydration can turn into a medical emergency, especially in the elderly. Dehydration can trigger atrial fibrillation, a cardiac rhythm abnormality that can lead to stroke. It can cause electrolyte abnormalities that can lead to many complications, including seizures. It can also cause dangerously low blood pressure and many other complications.
Combating dehydration in the elderly can seem like a chore, but with the right tools, a fun attitude, and a team approach, it’s easier than you may think!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Laurie Uzukwu, RN is a Home Health Supervisor for Care Advantage, Inc - Mechanicsville location. When she isn't caring for our elderly clients, you can find her on the road at one of her children's soccer games or dance competitions. She lives in Virginia with her husband, who is also a nurse, children and dog named Brie.