The sun is out, the weather is hot and the risk of dehydration has increased. Preventing dehydration in clients should be a priority during the summer months. While anyone can become dehydrated, the condition is especially dangerous for young children and older adults.
Water makes up about 50-70% of our body weight, and dehydration is a serious concern that can lead to potentially significant health consequences. Some of these consequences include impaired cognitive function, increased risk of falls, orthostatic hypotension, constipation and an increased risk of hospitalization.
What Are the Causes of Dehydration?
The elderly are at a higher risk of dehydration for multiple reasons:
- Impaired physical or cognitive abilities
- Impaired mobility
- A naturally lower volume of water in older adult bodies
- Decreased thirst in the elderly
- Reluctance to drink due to fear of incontinence
Young children become dehydrated most often due to severe diarrhea and vomiting.
Chronic illnesses and medication can also increase the risk of dehydration in both elderly and pediatric clients. With the heat of the summer, this risk is increased because body temperature is higher when outside in the heat, and water is lost through perspiration.
Prevention is key.
How to Prevent Dehydration
Simple steps to prevent dehydration:
- Keep track of fluid intake with a goal of approximately 3.7 liters per day for men and about 2.7 liters per day for women. Water intake goals for children vary with age. Check with a pediatrician to confirm the correct amount.
- Find out client fluid preferences for easier adherence.
- Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into meals and snacks. Fruits with a high water content include watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, pineapple, strawberries and oranges. Veggies with a high water content include bell peppers, broccoli, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini and celery.
- Keep drinks easily accessible and within reach.
- Encourage drinking throughout the day. Thirst is a late indicator of dehydration, so encourage clients to drink even if they do not feel thirsty.
- When going outside, wear loose fitting, light-colored clothing. A wide brimmed hat will keep your head cool. Make trips outside early in the day and avoid afternoons.
- Make flavor-infused water if your clients are tired of drinking plain water. Some great combinations of flavored water are lemon raspberry, citrus (orange, lemon or lime) and cucumber mint.
What Are the Signs of Dehydration?
Be aware of the signs of dehydration, which include:
- In infants or young children:
- Dry or sticky mouth or tongue
- No tears when crying
- No wet diapers for three hours
- Sunken eyes
- Sunken fontanel
- Listlessness or irritability
- In adults:
- Extreme thirst
- Less frequent urination
- Dark-colored urine
An intuitive home care software will include tools for caregivers to protect against dehydration. Use of an Intake and Output Log will help with tracking fluid intake and output, and can be viewed by day, week or month. Input and output records are color coded for ease of use and can also be filtered out.
Monitoring for signs and symptoms of dehydration and using simple prevention tips will minimize the risk of hospitalization due to dehydration.
Axxess Home Care, a cloud-based home care software, allows for documentation at the point of care so caregivers can quickly update client conditions as they happen.