Special attention should be paid to elderly clients during the hot summer months because they are more vulnerable to dehydration. As people age, the sense of thirst decreases because the receptors responsible for thirst regulation become defective with age, and so an elderly person may not feel thirsty or have that dry mouth sensation that often reminds us to drink water. Also, because of decline in cognitive functions, elderly people are less likely to notice that they should be drinking more water. Some seniors may also find it burdensome to get up several times during the day to get something to drink. Other factors that contribute to increased vulnerability to dehydration in the elderly include illnesses that involve diarrhea and vomiting, incontinence issues and medications that are diuretic in nature.
Signs of Dehydration
If your client is elderly, you as a care giver need to be very observant and keep on the lookout for signs of dehydration. The following are common signs of dehydration which a caregiver must watch for in the aged:
- Low sweat or tear production
- Decreased urine output. You should pay special attention to the color of the urine. A well hydrated person’s urine is clear.
- Dry skin and sunken eyes
- Dizziness, confusion or frequent headaches
- Dry, sticky mouth or nose
- If the skin on the back of the hand is lightly pinched and it does not bounce back right away, it is a sign of dehydration. Bear in mind of course, that due to aging, the skin’s elasticity is already low in the aged.
- Low blood pressure and rapid heart rate.
- Increased difficulty walking.
To keep your client hydrated, you need to do the following:
- Ensure that they drink water throughout the day. Make a schedule which ensures that they drink some water at certain intervals throughout the day. Keep a water bottle nearby to ensure liquids are always within reach so that mobility issues do not prevent them from drinking water.
- Cut out or drastically reduce their alcohol and coffee intake. When drunk in large quantities, alcohol and beverages with caffeine can have diuretic effect, which leads to a loss of body water and dehydration.
- Seniors can meet their daily water intake requirement by eating foods which have high water content. Ensure they eat a liberal supply of fruits like water melons and vegetables with high water content. Soups and yogurt are also a good idea.
- As plain water may not be palatable to all, you can substitute plain water with a drink they may enjoy like herbal tea, natural fruit juice and milk to increase water intake. Also, simply adding some lemon juice to water gives it some taste and makes it easier to drink.