Avoiding dehydration in the elderly is incredibly important.
Ultimately, good hydration is vital when it comes to staying healthy, as the body requires fluids to function normally.
So, as the elderly are already more susceptible to certain conditions and a decline in the natural effectiveness of their bodily functions due to their age, dehydration needs to be avoided to reduce the risk of more serious complications.
Dehydration can cause long-term effects if it is not managed correctly, leading to:
• Cardiovascular issues. Due to lower fluids levels in the body, caused by dehydration, the blood becomes thicker and more concentrated. This makes it more difficult for the blood to move easily through the cardiovascular system, leading to a rapid heart rate as the heart tries to maintain a normal blood pressure.
• Kidney issues. Hydration levels have a direct impact on the healthy functioning of the kidneys. When fluid levels start to drop, the need to urinate also decreases. If urination is less frequent, then the body is unable to rid itself of toxins as frequently as it needs to. This can lead to problems such a kidney stones, UTIs or even to permanent kidney damage.
• Decreased mental and physical abilities. As fluid is lost, normal bodily functions become more difficult. Dehydration can lead to delirium, confusion, poor focus and concentration as well as reducing physical abilities due to increased fatigue.
• Increased risk of falls. Following on from the point above, as physical abilities decrease the risk of falls increases. This is a huge risk for the elderly as their reaction times and normal bodily functions are already reduced, due to their age.
• Hyperthermia. With decreasing fluid levels, the body starts to struggle with core temperature regulation. This can result in rising body temperature, which could then become hyperthermia.
• Seizures. As electrolytes (present in bodily fluids) are required to carry electrical signals between cells, a reduction in these can also affect the signals. This can potentially lead to seizures.
This is a great concern for many carers, and is a challenge faced especially by care homes with so many people in their care.
And to avoid the risk of these complications developing, promoting good hydration is vital.
So, you might also like to check out this article on how to encourage care home residents to drink, for some inspiration on keeping them hydrated and healthy.