Dehydration seems like a pretty benign health problem. You’re not drinking enough water so you start feeling thirsty or develop a headache. You then realize you might be dehydrated, drink a glass of water or two and the problem’s solved in no time, right? For most people this might be true, but for older adults it’s not so simple. The effects of dehydration can lead to potentially life-threatening health complications. So as a caregiver, learning to spot the early signs is very important.
What Causes Dehydration?
Put simply, dehydration occurs when your body loses more water than it takes in. For most adults this occurs through sweating, but as our bodies age we become more susceptible to fluid loss through other means. Prescribed blood pressure or depression medications can often cause dehydration. Kidney function also declines as we age, which compromises our ability to retain water. To make matters worse, many seniors lose the ability to regulate their own fluid levels because of various physical issues. Imagine an elderly person with limited kidney function who’s been prescribed blood-pressure medication and also can’t move around without her walker and you’ll begin to see how vulnerable seniors are to this problem. So how do you recognize the signs of dehydration, especially if the patient can’t tell you themselves?
Signs and Symptoms
Spotting the signs of dehydration requires regular monitoring of your patient’s physical condition. Daily weigh-ins are a great place to start. If an individual has lost 1 or 2 pounds overnight, that’s often a sign of fluid loss. You can also check hydration levels by gently pulling up the skin from that back of a patient’s hand and holding it for a second or two. If their skin doesn’t bounce back immediately after you let go, they likely need additional fluids. Other signs include:
- Discolored Urine
- Black or bloody stool
- Low blood pressure
- Inability to sweat or produce tears
If not properly treated, dehydration can lead to confusion, weakness, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, bed sores, and in some cases death. In our next post, we’ll share a few simple strategies that will help seniors monitor their own hydration.
Proper monitoring is vital if you’re concerned an aging loved ones isn’t getting the fluids they need. Unfortunately not everyone has the time or ability to perform regular caregiving duties. If you need help caring for an older adult in your life, Generations Home Care provides highly trained and capable caregivers to clients throughout the greater Phoenix area. After comparing our services to the competition, you’ll see we’re the clear choice. Call us today at 602-595-HOME for your free assessment and we can get started right away.