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Dehydration In The Elderly

Dehydration in the Elderly

Summer in Montreal can be a dangerous time for the elderly, as the high temperatures can put seniors at a greater risk for dehydration.

Dehydration occurs when more water is moving out of our cells and bodies than we are taking in. If not properly addressed, dehydration can lead to serious medical conditions and even death. Our health care professionals can help address this as part of our quality senior care in Montreal.

We lose water each day through our urine, bowel movements, perspiration and even in the form of water vapor when we exhale. When too much water is lost, we experience an imbalance in our bodies which can result in numerous symptoms.

Signs that a person may be experiencing mild dehydration include

  • Low urine output or dark concentrated urine
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Weakness, dizziness or confusion
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth / cracked lips
  • Crying without tears

The elderly are particularly vulnerable to dehydration for many reasons. Many of the symptoms of dehydration are mistaken for signs of aging. For example, we do not expect the elderly to be energetic. Likewise, memory issues or confusion are often assumed to be mild dementia.

There are many causes for an insufficient intake of water that are common to the elderly

  • Avoiding drinking water. Many elderly people may intentionally avoid drinking water in order to reduce the number of trips to the bathroom. If their mobility is limited, getting out of bed or their chair to go to the bathroom may require a lot of effort. They also may have a harder time holding their urine during the night and fear incontinence or having an “accident” on the way to the bathroom.
  • Medications. Some heart conditions require the elderly to take a diuretic, which causes an increase in the passing of urine.
  • Swallowing difficulties. Many elderly patients have difficulty swallowing. Water slips down the throat and can cause coughing or even aspiration pneumonia.
  • Poor food choices Coffee and tea do not replace water to provide hydration. Many elderly people eat a lot of dry foods such as toast and cookies, but do not eat enough salads and raw fruits and vegetables which are abundant in water, because they are more difficult to chew.

Eldercare Dehydration Prevention

Dehydration can be prevented with planning and patience on the part of the family or caregiver. And Complete Care Coordination offers services to seniors and their families that include a caregiver in Montreal.

  • Keep small glasses of water (a large glass can seem overwhelming) on the bed-side table, the kitchen table, by the chair in the living room and at the bathroom sink. A reminder on the bathroom mirror can help! Also, room temperature water is easier to drink than ice-water.
  • Encourage a few extra sips each time medication is given – two ounces at a time. If medications are given four times a day, that adds up to an extra 8oz glass!
  • Mix 2 oz of apple, grape or orange juice with 6 oz of water to make it more palatable. Many people who are unaccustomed to plain water complain that it is not enjoyable.
  • Make fruit smoothies (sneak in some vegetables, too). Chewing becomes difficult for some elderly so smoothies are a great way to incorporate fresh fruits and veggies into their diets.
  • Stay out of the sun, dress in light clothing, keep a fan on close by and encourage a rest during the hottest time of the day.
  • Thickener can be added to watered-down juice to reduce the risk of choking.

If you are providing home care to an elderly patient and suspect that they are suffering from dehydration, please contact a health care professional.

Please contact us if you need assistance with home care in Montreal for a senior member of your family.

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