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Dehydration—A Silent Signal for Help

July 05, 2017

It is important to keep hydrated now that summer is here. Dehydration can happen often in long-term care settings, and older adults have a tendency to feel less thirsty, less quickly than younger persons. A resident may be dehydrated if they:

  • Drink less than six cups of liquids per day
  • Have a dry mouth, cracked lips or sunken eyes
  • Suffer from dark urine, frequent vomiting, diarrhea or fever
  • Need help drinking from a cup or glass, or have trouble swallowing liquids
  • Act confused or extremely tired

Studies show that long-term care residents are at greater risk of becoming dehydrated than those living in the community. It is thought that some residents may drink less as to not have to ask for assistance to use the bathroom or get out of the bed. Dehydration can cause increased risk of urinary tract infections, coronary events and death. Certain medications can also decrease thirst. After checking swallowing precautions for the resident, follow these steps (when appropriate) to ensure that they stay hydrated:

  • Encourage the resident to take a drink every time you see them.
  • Offer ice chips frequently.
  • Offer sips of liquid between bites of food.
  • Confirm a pitcher and cup are nearby and light enough for the resident to lift themselves.
  • Offer assistance as needed if resident cannot drink without help.
  • Be sure to alert staff to any behaviors that may signal a resident is dehydrated.
  • Encourage milk, decaffeinated tea or juice instead of caffeinated drinks like soda and coffee. (Remember: caffeinated drinks do not count as much toward fluid intake.)

Together, we can ensure our long-term residents stay hydrated this summer!

This article is from the Baltimore County on Aging Newsletter. Read the newsletter here.