Our body needs water to properly carry out many different physiological functions, from regulating temperature through sweating and preserving blood pressure to excreting body waste and carrying out cell reactions.
The risk of dehydration is generally high with the elderly, but it’s even more pronounced for an elderly individual suffering from dementia.
Dehydration occurs when a person’s body loses more water than they can take in.
The Symptoms of Mild and Severe Dehydration
Dehydration of 2% is considered mild, while at 6% water loss the dehydration level starts to become severe.
Mild dehydration causes people to feel tired and unfocused and have headaches. However, severe dehydration can result in confusion, delirium and, if left untreated for a few days, death.
The link between elderly dementia sufferers and dehydration is down to several factors.
Firstly, people suffering from dementia often forget to drink at all, or make a drink for themselves then forget where they put it; however, oftentimes the part of the brain that deals with sending thirst signals to the body doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to, leaving one unable to perceive their own thirst.
Another reason is that medication often has a diuretic effect, meaning the urge to urinate frequently and hence lose liquids fast.
In addition, diseases like diarrhea and vomiting result in immediate and significant loss of water.
However, the later stages of dementia can pose a special threat in that it becomes harder for the elderly to swallow, with the brain unable to send the appropriate signal to the mouth, causing the fluids to dribble out.
While bedridden elderly people can drink liquids, the fact that they cannot get their own drink often leads them to dehydration when water is not accessible or they are left alone.
As dementia also causes confusion – similar to dehydration – other symptoms of dehydration must be checked to ensure a patient’s delirious symptoms are not caused by dementia.
These symptoms include papery dry skin, dark and fetid urine and sunken eyes.
Tips for Increasing Hydration Among the Elderly
To prevent dehydration and properly fuel the bodily functions, keep these ideas in mind when taking care of elderly loved ones.
- Leave water out. Make it simpler for the elderly suffering from dementia by leaving out cups of water in all the rooms of the house where they spend time.
- Make the process easier. If your loved one struggles with dexterity and is unable to hold a jug or glass to pour from, keep easy-mouthed bottles, two-handled cups and one-way straws around to minimise spillage and discomfort.
- Use notes or reminders. It can greatly help if dementia patients are reminded of what they need to do. Leaving notes around the house, installing an hourly water alarm or delegating the reminding task to each house member whenever they talk to the elder can effectively tackle dehydration problems.
- Make beverages they would enjoy drinking. Instead of just providing plain water, try to add lemon, orange or cucumber in their drinks. Giving them fresh juices, smoothies and teas will not only help them stay hydrated but will also supply them with healthy nutrients.
- Provide hydrating foods. Some people are not fond of drinking water, so instead they can eat food with a high-water content. Examples include most juicy fruits, veggies like tomato or cucumber, soups and cottage cheese.
- Avoid drying food. Elderly patients should avoid coffee, alcohol and high protein drinks, as they all have a diuretic effects and drain water from the body. This can worsen dehydration.
Water is not only needed to prevent dehydration but it’s critical in keeping our immunity strong while warding off heart diseases, blood pressure and diabetes.
Water is the main source of life in our bodies; the human body is itself composed of 60% water; therefore a big chunk of keeping a check on our loved ones’ health is related to taking care of their hydration needs.
This guest post was written by Brooke Whistance, a passionate health and lifestyle blogger who loves to write about prevailing trends. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her family, including her parents and two siblings. Follow her on Twitter: @IamBrooke94.
Instead of just providing plain water, try to add lemon, orange or cucumber in their drinks. Giving them fresh juices, smoothies and teas will not only help them stay hydrated but will also supply them with healthy nutrients.