Dehydration symptoms: noticing the signs and how a balanced diet can help
What is Dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when you’re not consuming as many fluids as you should be or if you are losing more fluids than you are gaining. Your body is made up of 60% water and needs fluids throughout the day. With a lack of water, your body can fail to function and can cause some nasty side effects. It is easily treated but if ignored, could become more severe.
Symptoms of dehydration in elderly people
Dehydration affects people in different ways and because it is so common, it can often be hard to spot the signs:
Signs of dehydration to watch out for:
- Dark and strong-smelling urine
- Feeling thirsty
- Feeling lightheaded
- Dry mouth, eyes and lips
- Urinating less than four times a day.
While the above are not unique to adults or the elderly (children and babies can have the same symptoms), they can be quite hard to spot and staying aware of all these possible symptoms will help you identify them in the more vulnerable.
It is vital that as soon as you notice the signs of dehydration, you treat them as quickly as possible. If dehydration is left neglected, it could lead to further health issues such as low blood pressure, heat stress, pressure ulcers, constipation, a weak pulse and even fits (seizures). And for those with dementia, it can lead to challenging behaviour.
How to treat dehydration in the elderly
The most effective and easiest treatment for dehydration is to obviously keep giving people fluids and to make sure they’re consuming a balanced meal. However, this can be a challenge for carers and nurses in healthcare environments who may find some struggle to consume the daily recommendation of water. This could be because there may be a worry about incontinence or making frequent trips to the toilet. Some may also not want to bother carers or nurses, and some may struggle to hold cups or pour water for themselves.
How to encourage water consumption
Getting an adult to drink two-and-a-half litres can be a challenge. However, there are ways in which nurses and carers can encourage older people to drink more.
For many, drinking large volumes of water can be quite intimidating. So it is better to focus on frequent small drinks instead. We find this to be a more effective method than a large, overwhelming glass of water. Instead, we encourage carers and nurses to use smaller glasses to help remove this intimidation.
Solutions like hydration stations are a creative way to encourage people to increase their fluid intake. These stations should be accessible around the clock and offer a range of drinks and food items to make keeping hydrated much easier and more appealing. We also encourage nurses and carers (where possible) to add some excitement and colour to their hydration stations: this will go a long way towards helping residents/patients with dementia as well.
The importance of a balanced meal
When you are dehydrated, you are not only lacking fluids in your body, but also your sodium level significantly drops. We understand the importance of replacing what you lose from dehydration, that's why all our meals have a perfect balance of nutrients to ensure your body gets exactly what it needs and deserves. It’s why the right diet, including fruits, soups and stews can help to supplement fluid levels.
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