DEHYDRATION IN THE ELDERLY

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(Wed14th Sept., 2016)

Chronic dehydration in elderly patients can wreak havoc on the body. The total body water decreases with age (from 60 percent to 52 percent in men, and from 52 to 46 percent in women). Therefore, an adult over 60 years old has less water to lose before becoming dehydrated. Not to mention, chronic diseases, neurologic conditions and some prescription medications, to name a few, all can exacerbate dehydration quickly.
*Risk factors of dehydration in elderly include:*

i. Swallowing disorders caused by stroke, Parkinson’s disease or dementia

ii. Obesity

iii. Patients over 85 years old

iv. Being bedridden

v. Diarrhea 

vi. vomiting or excessive sweating

vii. Frequent urination 

viii. Diminished drinking due to fear of incontinence

ix. Loss of muscle mass
*The early warning signs of dehydration include* fatigue, dizziness, thirst, dark urine, headaches, dry mouth/nose, dry skin and cramping.
*Tips in preventing or managing dehydration in the elderly include:*

i. Encourage your patients to drink small amounts of fluids throughout the day, rather than drinking large amounts all at once.

ii. Five 8-ounce (~236.59ml) glasses of water per day is a good bench for elderly patients. Although everyone’s needs are different, studies have shown that elderly adults who drink 5 glasses of water experience lower rates of fatal coronary heart disease.

iii. Patients should avoid coffee, alcohol and high-protein drinks, especially in large quantities, because they have a diuretic effect. 

iv. Encourage older adults to drink water, milk or juice with every meal, and keep favorite beverages nearby.

v. Remember that foods high in water, like fresh fruits, vegetables and some dairy products, can help your patients meet their daily water needs. Encourage your patients to eat foods high with high fluid content. 

vi. Fear of incontinence can diminish a patient’s urge to drink voluntarily. Therefore, encourage patients to drink more during the day and limit drinking before bed.
Enjoy your day. 

Etienne Ezenwa Obidaa, RDN

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