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Blog: Hydration for the elderly
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Lady drinking water
27 July 2016 - 11:32, by BWCA, in Seaton Spring 1 comment
So why is dehydration a danger to elderly people? One of the main dangers as we age is that the thirst mechanism just doesn’t kick in when it should. Elderly people, especially those with dementia, can easily become dehydrated and in turn become even more confused. This Fact Sheet has been produced for nurses, carers and others involved in the welfare of elderly people especially vulnerable older people in nursing homes or hospitals and as a reminder about the need for proper hydration at all times.

Having water that is conveniently dispensed and tastes good helps to entice elderly people to hydrate. A water cooler helps residents and staff stay hydrated safely and hygienically.
Being dehydrated is not just uncomfortable, it can be damaging to health. This is especially true for those taking mediation for other medical conditions. As well as adding to confusion, dehydration can affect kidney function and be harmful to the liver, joints and muscles. It can also cause cholesterol problems, headaches, reduced blood pressure (hypotension), fatigue and constipation.

For older people in care, being well hydrated brings lots of benefits.
Benefits of good hydration
1 Fewer urinary tract infections
2 Better kidney health
3 Less danger of dizziness and falls
4 Greater concentration and cognitive ability
5 Reduced incidence of constipation
Research has shown that as we age, we drink less water. Drinking water is a healthy option, although of course fluids from other sources also count. Tea, milky beverages, other cold drinks and foods such as soup and salad that have high water content all make a useful contribution to hydration. The key thing is fluid intake of whatever kind, but for elderly people trying to avoid intake of excess sugar due to diabetes, drinking water is a good solution. It is essential to make drinking water accessible. This means not just placing the water nearby but encouraging, or actively helping people to drink.

There are many ways to encourage water intake. Having water that is conveniently dispensed and tastes good helps to entice elderly people to hydrate. A water cooler helps residents and staff stay hydrated safely and hygienically. In addition having a water cooler with disposable cups avoids washing jugs and glasses. Older people often need to sip fluid slowly throughout the day as drinking an entire 250ml glass in one go can be challenging. Finally, many elderly people get dehydrated at night because they stop drinking to avoid toilet visits. In fact, hydration is proven to reduce the urge to pass water.

How can I tell if my patients are dehydrated? There are common signs of dehydration that you need to look out for. Patients may show decreased ability to carry out physical tasks, loss of appetite, reduction in urinary output, sleepiness, headaches, impatience and lack of concentration. The more serious symptoms of severe dehydration include a lack of elasticity in the skin, not passing urine at all or the urine being dark in colour. Healthy, hydrated urine is pale lemon or straw coloured.

Whether you choose a bottled water cooler or mains-fed water cooler for your care home of hospital depends on practical considerations. Where there is no convenient access to potable mains water, bottled water coolers can be the perfect choice. If you have a suitable location for a mains-fed machine, but limited storage space for bottles, then a plumbed-in water cooler may suit better. Seaton Spring can help you with that choice and has a water cooler suitable for every location.
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About this author
This information has been prodcued by the British Water Cooler Association, the most respected trade body representing companies supplying bottled water and mains-fed coolers for over 20 years. BWCA Members are under an obligation to adhere to strict Codes of Practice and best conduct and are audited for compliance annually by 3rd party inspection organisations.

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