Dehydration is ‘an age old problem’ -
From birth onwards it is our 'sense of thirst' that reminds us throughout each day of our life, that our body needs more water. However, anecdotal and research evidence confirms that as a person reaches older age they start to feel less thirsty. For this reason alone, any elderly person has an increased risk of dehydration. This is because the aging process slightly reduces a person’s sense of thirst. It therefore stands to reason that if a person doesn't feel particularly thirsty they will be less inclined to drink.
For the millions of vulnerable people (old and young) who rely on a carer to help them to drink and eat the risk is understandably far greater. This risk is further compounded when a person does not eat very much, as the water in food supports daily hydration intake. Underlying medical conditions such as dementia, kidney failure, or shortness of breath, diuretic medications also increase risk. Another major issue is concern about incontinence, or the sheer physical effort of getting to the toilet, risk of falls (especially at night time) and as such many people choose to restrict their fluid intake.
There is overwhelming agreement that the most appropriate and cost effective way of reducing the risk of dehydration in elderly care, is quite simply to ensure a person always receives the correct level of support to drink and eat from a carer.
Providing this level of care should never be underestimated and even with the best care, a person may still decline to drink. Above all carers need time to care.
However, it is widely acknowledged that such fundamental and vital care is not consistently provided, and increasing evidence suggests that this is all too often the underlying or direct cause of thousands of preventable admissions, due to repeated urine infections and constipation, falls, fractured hips and head injuries, chest infections, delirium, malnutrition, pressure ulcers, acute kidney injury, sepsis, and delayed recovery from stroke and surgery ….and so the list goes on.
It’s a shocking fact that something as simple as helping a person to try and drink and eat a bit more - throughout each day, could have a phenomenal positive difference to all concerned, by preventing avoidable human suffering and escalating costs