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Why dehydration may be of concern for the elderly

For young, healthy adults, it may be difficult to recognize what your loved ones need as they grow older. Your needs will likely be different than those of your aging parents but as you try to help them, you could find that some things gain importance with age.

Consider water intake, for example. You might not think about encouraging your parents to hydrate. However, dehydration can wreak havoc on anyone’s body. It can cause dizziness, fatigue and confusion. For the elderly, these symptoms can be much more severe.

How can dehydration affect your body?

You might become dehydrated due to losing more fluid than you take in. This could happen through sweating or because of vomiting or diarrhea. In some cases, you might not know you are dehydrated. Thirst may not necessarily indicate the need to drink water. And complications of dehydration in the elderly can contribute to existing health complications.

Signs of dehydration in older adults might include:

  • Seizures
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Kidney stones
  • Kidney failure
  • Hypovolemic shock

If you move your loved one into a care facility, you might rely on the staff to provide proper care. And although that is likely the case, you might be wise to consider the possibility of dehydration among those who live in a nursing home.

Is your loved one more likely to become dehydrated in a nursing home?

A lessened ability to get up and move around makes independently meeting your needs more difficult as you age. Sometimes an elderly person might overlook a task such as getting a drink because of the amount of effort required.

Studies drawing a connection between dehydration and increased sodium levels in the blood suggest that nursing home residents may be five times more likely to be dehydrated as those living in their own homes. Since many facilities struggle to meet staffing needs, residents may not be encouraged to drink adequate fluids because that could potentially lead to a wet bed or the need to assist a patient with personal cares.

What you can do to help

While trying to force fluids may not be helpful, you might nonchalantly offer a glass of water as you visit your loved one. Sitting down together with something to drink could make your time together feel like a relaxed social visit.

You can also talk to the nursing staff about your potential concerns. Though you probably do not want to seem demanding, it may not hurt to make people aware of your involvement.

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