Getting enough fluids is incredibly important for our health, and even more so the older we get. After all, our bodies are made up of mostly water, and our organs need water in order to function properly and remain healthy. It may seem so simple to drink water, but there are so many things that can cause us to lose fluids without even realising it. Here’s our top tips on how to prevent, detect and treat dehydration in older adults.
Dehydration can become far more serious than we might imagine, especially for the elderly. As we age, the body loses its ability to retain as much water, meaning older adults need to ensure they are re-hydrating more frequently. Again, the answer seems so simple – drink more water, but the older we get, we also begin to lose our sense of thirst! This means we may not realise that we’re becoming dehydrated, so by the time we reach the point we feel thirsty, we’re essentially already dehydrated.
There are many different opinions on how much water one should drink daily, but the NHS website recommends 6-8 glasses as best practice. However, this really depends on a number of factors such as how active you are, what climate you live in and your height and size.
We get about 20% of our water intake from our food, so the general rule of thumb is to aim for around two litres of water per day, topping that up when it’s hot or if we’re doing exercise. And as mentioned above, if you’re thirsty, this means you’re already dehydrated, so it’s important to get into the habit of drinking small amounts throughout the day to keep your fluid levels up.
There are a number of different reasons why dehydration can be more common in the elderly, and it’s important to be aware of these so that you can spot the signs of dehydration early. In recognising these factors, you can be better equipped to prevent, detect and treat dehydration in older adults.
Medication is something to be mindful of when trying to prevent and detect and treat dehydration in older adults as certain medications can cause excess loss of fluids and electrolytes. This is why you may notice your doctor telling you to drink more water than usual when taking a course of antibiotics, for example. If you have older adults in your care taking daily prescription meds, extra fluid intake should become a natural part of their routine.
Older adults may start to experience incontinence issues, which can make them reluctant to drink fluids regularly in case they have an accident. This can be extremely harmful to the body, so it’s important for anyone experiencing these types of issues to speak with their GP for advice on how to control incontinence in a safe way.
Older adults living with dementia may forget to carry out daily routines such as drinking water, so it’s important that those caring for people with dementia keep track of fluid intake and encourage it regularly. In advanced stages of Dementia, patients can sometimes develop dysphagia which is difficulty swallowing – making the basic act of drinking water incredibly painful. In these cases, providing fluids intravenously may be the best way to prevent dehydration.
It is important for carers, and the elderly themselves to be able to spot the signs of dehydration quickly in order to treat them, but many of the early signs of dehydration can easily be ignored or misdiagnosed.
Early signs of dehydration can include obvious symptoms such as thirst, and can also commonly present itself in headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue and lethargy, infrequent and dark urine. Most of these early signs of dehydration can be treated simply by immediately increasing fluid intake. The easiest way to know whether you’re hydrated enough is to check the colour of your urine. A light yellow or clear colour indicates hydration levels are all good.
However, more severe signs of dehydration may include diarrhea and vomiting, confusion, and blood in your stools. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or someone in your care, it is important to contact the GP immediately for medical intervention.
Water is undoubtedly the best option when replenishing fluids, however any drinks will contribute to your daily fluid levels. It is generally advised that caffeinated drinks such as coffee aren’t the best source for hydration because they can have a diuretic effect, but that’s not to say these drinks should be avoided altogether as part of a balanced diet.
Alcohol is also not recommended, especially in people who are already dehydrated as this will just make things worse. Older adults can also be very susceptible to Urinary Tract Infections, bladder and kidney problems, which can all be triggered by dehydration.
Of course, the best way to prevent, detect and treat dehydration in older adults is to encourage more fluid intake. Hydration can often be something we forget about, but with some of the issues listed above, it’s imperative that older adults in care are encouraged to drink more in any way possible. Tips you can try include:
If you are someone caring for an elderly person and you’re concerned about dehydration, keep a log of fluid intake. You can also make note of bathroom trips, diet, mood and anything else that may be affected by their hydration levels.
Overall, water plays an amazing role in the healthy functioning of our bodies, from assisting the heart in efficiently pumping blood around our bodies, to flushing out toxins from our liver and other organs. Drinking water has a huge range of health benefits including giving you more energy, improving skin, weight loss and it can even reduce your risk of heart attack.
To find out more about how Nourish can help you track and monitor things such as fluid intake, book a demo today!
This week it’s Nutrition and Hydration Week, where people are encouraged to raise awareness of the health benefits of eating enough of the right foods and drinking enough of the right fluids. A message which is of great importance in the world of care.
Being well-nourished and hydrated contributes significantly to someone’s overall physical and mental wellbeing, and the risk of malnutrition and dehydration only increases as we get older, as do the consequences. So it’s an important topic in care of all shapes and sizes and something that every care service or provider should bear in mind.
Here are three ways that the Nourish digital care management system can help care providers to effectively monitor the food and fluid intake of the people they care for; minimising the risks of serious health problems, encouraging good health and making it easier to provide a more personalised service.
Maintaining good hydration is incredibly important for a number of reasons; not least because it aids digestion and gives people strength, but also because it can significantly minimise hospital admissions, in the event of falls for example.
With the Nourish fluid intake tool, care teams can set fluid targets for an individual based on a number of individual factors including;
The amount and type of fluid offered and drank can be recorded throughout the day, and total intake will be automatically calculated to show how close to the target an individual is.
To encourage regular fluid intake, checks can be diarised so that care teams will be alerted throughout the day if someone is seen to not be drinking enough because it hasn’t been recorded, furthering to support care teams and help them work smarter, not harder, to provide those in their care with the hydration they need.
Reports can also be generated using data collected over longer periods of time, to help care teams identify if there has been a reduction in fluid intake, and therefore investigate the reasons as to why this might be and flag any potential issues with those they support.
This functionality can also be replaced by a fluid in and fluid out tool if the passing of urine needs to be recorded, for people who may suffer from fluid retention for example.
Care providers who have adopted the Nourish system no longer have to record lengthy and time-consuming written notes on what a service user has eaten throughout the day. Our software features remove the need to try and remember what was eaten and when it was eaten as this information can be recorded at the time the meal was given.
To save even more time, the Nourish system can be configured so that four-week menus are built in, enabling carers to select which specific meal was provided from a drop-down list rather than making them have to type out the details.
Carers are also able to record how much of the meal was eaten, whether the service user enjoyed it and if they required any assistance. All of this information is reportable in a graph format, so that again, trends can be tracked and any issues can be raised.
Finally, food preferences, dietary requirements and allergy information is clearly visible to ensure the correct type of meal is given and there are never any mistakes, another way our systems are designed to help carers provide the highest quality of care possible.
Our elderly population is particularly at risk of malnutrition as the ability to chew and swallow can decrease with natural ageing, health changes and poor oral and dental health. As well as ensuring a varied and healthy diet, care teams should use the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST) to help establish whether there is a nutritional risk.
Within the Nourish care system, carers can record MUST scores using the BAPEN scale in just three clicks of a button, all previous or historical numerical data is pulled through from previous scores, migrating the information to eliminate the need for manual calculation and reduce the risk of human error.
These can be scheduled at regular intervals so that care teams are alerted when MUST assessments are due. Reports can also be generated quickly and easily that compare previous records within an unlimited time frame, allowing for the identification of any decline or improvement as well as trends and insights based on this.
With fluid intake, meal preferences and consumption, and MUST scores all recorded/stored in one place and instantly available, updating nutrition and hydration care plans has never been easier or more effective.
To find out how our care software for real-time care planning, as well as our daily notes can enhance the amount of information you can record and help to improve your quality of care, get in touch to book a demo with the team.
Today’s article looks at some of the great new tools being pioneered by the Bournemouth University Dementia Institute (BUDI) to help carers to improve the way they provide good hydration and nutrition to those in their care with dementia. We caught up with Jane Murphy who heads up the research, at a recent seminar hosted by the Hampshire Care Association and the rest of the article is formed from our conversations.
At Nourish we know that many people in care who suffer with dementia struggle with eating and drinking. This is often a contributing factor to poor health, reduced quality of life, and accelerate deterioration as a person’s dementia develops. It is also an increasing problem as care providers must meet Regulation 14 of the Health and Social Care Act to ensure that the people they look after have enough to eat and drink. This isn’t just about enough food and drink to meet their nutrition and hydration needs, but also they must receive the support they need to do so.
As we know, the old adage of, “you get out what you put in” is never more true than with your body and the nutrients you take. Therefore, supporting older people who have dementia to eat and drink properly should be a priority for care staff. However, despite the importance, there are a lack of research, evidence and tools to support good practice. This becomes clear when you realise that there are no standardised approaches or training programmes to provide staff with information about nutrition for people with dementia.
The BUDI secured funding from the Burdett Trust for Nursing, allowing Jane and the team of researchers at Bournemouth University to work with care providers, charities and local authorities in Dorset to research best practice in more detail and create the means to support care to provide robust nutritional care.
Jane and BUDI’s research culminated in a report called “Eating and Drinking well: supporting people living with dementia”. The report also includes a training film which can help show carers how to improve their practices and enhance their skills to provide a better eating and drinking experience for people in their care, who’re living with dementia.
You can access the training film online by visiting the BUDI area of Bournemouth University’s website. Jane’s team also developed a training book to be used alongside the video, which is packed with best practice, tips and concepts to try out, including:
More information about the workbook, and BUDI can be found by visiting Understanding Nutrition and Dementia.
Alternatively learn more about how our community builder, Ian, is raising awareness for dementia .