Aging is a prerequisite for fluid and electrolyte imbalances particularly as the body’s ability to store water decreases. Therefore, it can be more difficult for elderly individuals to adapt to changes in temperature. Plus, as we age our sense of thirst also reduces, so when we eventually do have a drink, our levels may already be very low.
Medical conditions can play a key role in how we retain or even take on board fluids. People with dementia, for example, may forget to eat or drink or eventually may have difficulty swallowing.
Caregivers should be familiar with the early signs of dehydration including:
- Dry mouth, lips and tongue
- Skin conditions
- Little, concentrated urine output
We must be mindful of our senior relatives liquid intake. There are, however, ways we can help to increase their fluid intake, including:
- Senior relatives may not be keen on drinking just plain water. So, try water infused with fruit such as:
Adding fruit can boost the taste and make it more appetising for your relatives. The addition of bright coloured fruit can also make the water look more appetising.
Because tea and coffee are sources of caffeine, which can make us feel thirstier and contribute to dehydration, these should be supplemented with other fluid sources.
Try opting for decaffeinated versions or encourage drinking a glass of water after a cup of tea or coffee to help with hydration.
- Why not serve a hot soup or broth – with high-water contents they can help prevent dehydration. If you’re going out for the day why not prepare the soup before you go and store it in one of our insulated water bottles – specially designed to keep hot drinks warm for 18 hours and cold ones cool for 30 hours.
- Always make sure fluids are within easy reach. If the water is in an easy to access place, it can encourage them to increase their water intake. If your relatives struggle with tremors, for example, ensure the container is ergonomically designed, so they are able to drink with ease.
- Try fluids at different temperatures. Don’t be afraid to experiment. For example, if its very hot in the Summer try making popsicles by freezing a mix of fruit juice and water – a perfect treat and a great way to ensure hydration.
- Offer a glass of water with medication and encourage your senior relatives to drink the full contents.
According to statistics, dehydration is the most common electrolyte disorders amongst the elderly population. The balance between water loss from our kidneys, lungs and skin and water gain from oral intake is essential to survival.
Generally, we should all aim to drink around 1.5 litres of fluid per day – exceptions may include very hot weather or illness, where you will need to drink more. For some, the fear of incontinence can be enough to prevent them from drinking, so its essential to combat this with drinking little and often.
As with most illnesses, prevention is always better than cure. Ensuring your relative is adequately hydrated during the day is better than having to seek treatment for dehydration later on.