As someone who looks after care home residents, you will most likely tackle dehydration on a daily basis.
Understandably, this will be a stressful experience not just for your residents but for you too, as their health and wellbeing are your number one concerns.
So, why is dehydration so common in care homes?
As you will already know, older people are simply more at risk due to age-related changes in their body, whether that’s physical, psychological, cognitive or physiological.
This means that care homes like yours will be home to residents that are naturally more at risk of becoming dehydrated, which is why cases are so high.
What are the effects of dehydration on the body?
• Kidney problems. If residents aren’t adequately hydrated, they aren’t able to urinate as often (or even at all) and so their body is unable to remove toxins. This can lead to problems such as UTIs and kidney stones, which could lead to permanent kidney damage.
• Increased heart rate. When body fluid levels are low, the blood becomes thicker and more concentrated, making it harder to move through the cardiovascular system. This results in a rapid heart rate as the heart goes into overdrive trying to maintain a normal blood pressure.
• Hyperthermia. Again, as fluid levels are low, it can cause the body to struggle with temperature regulation. This can result in an increased risk of hyperthermia.
• Reduced physical and mental ability. Dehydration can affect physical ability and mental functions, such as concentration and reaction time, which also means the risk of falls is greater.
In older people, who potentially also have pre-existing conditions, the effects of dehydration can be fatal, understandably making it a serious concern for you.
That’s why it’s so important to look out for any signs/symptoms related to dehydration, including tiredness/fatigue, dry mouth, decrease in urination or darker coloured urine, sunken eyes, dizziness/lightheadedness.
And, more seriously, fainting, confusion or disorientation, inability to move, rapid heartbeat, diarrhoea and vomiting for more than 24 hours.
If any of these symptoms are identified in residents, you are then able to take action to prevent further damage or the development of any hydration-related illnesses.
Being in an “at risk” setting means you not only need to monitor residents for any of these signs/symptoms, but steps need to be taken to reduce the likelihood of those in your care suffering from dehydration.
Identifying which measures will be most effective in your care home will be helped by understanding the reasons why residents are most at risk…
So, why not check out this article on how to identify the most common risk factors for dehydration in care home residents?