When a person has dementia, it is important to make sure they eat right and drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration is common in people with dementia, find out how you can best support them so that it doesn’t cause other health concerns.
What is Dehydration?
Dehydration is what happens when an individual loses more fluids than they take in, which results in the body not having enough fluids to perform normal functions. When mild dehydration occurs, an individual will lose 2% of their body weight. Severe dehydration is when an individual loses at least 4% or of their body weight.
The human body, on average, is made up of 55-60% water, however the water content of a 75 to 80 year-old is nearly 50% less than a young person . Without water, the human body is not able to function.
It is important for older adults to stay hydrated, which will properly regulate body temperature and blood pressure.
Normally those who are dehydrated can usually remedy the problem by drinking water or drinks with electrolytes, but older adults may not be able to rehydrate as easily. Dehydration is the most common fluid and electrolyte condition in older adults. If left untreated, dehydration can cause serious long-term health effects in seniors.
Causes For Dehydration For People Diagnosed With Dementia
For older individuals with dementia, dehydration can be a common problem. Dementia and Dehydration is more common in older individuals with dementia for several reasons.
They can Forget to Drink
Dementia alters the brain, which can lead to two outcomes.
In certain circumstances, some people living with dementia may forget to drink enough because they simply forget where they placed their drink or if they even had a drink.
There is an area in the brain that will trigger an individual to drink when they are thirsty. When a person has dementia, this area of the brain may be affected. As a result, these individuals may feel parched, but they are not able to make the connection between taking a drink to relieve thirst.
There are certain medications that are commonly prescribed that can cause a diuretic effect, which will cause frequent urination. This will cause the body will lose fluids quickly. For example, many medications that are used to treat high blood pressure that have diuretic effects.
Certain illnesses can also lead to dehydration. Particularly conditions where a person may be vomiting or have diarrhea.
Inability to Swallow
The inability to swallow can also lead to dehydration for those with dementia. For some people with dementia, their brain is affected in such a way that he mouth and throat do not receive messages from the brain to tell them what to do when eating or drinking. Or they simply may not like the taste of thickened fluids.
They Have Limited Mobility
If an older adult has limited mobility, it can cause him or her to have problems getting out of bed or getting up from a chair on a regular basis to drink. Therefore will rely on people around them to assist and provide prompts.
Preventing Dehydration in Your Loved Ones
For those with loved ones who have dementia, there are preventative actions they can take to help keep their loved ones hydrated. It is important that individuals with dementia stay properly hydrated to avoid admission to hospital.
Make Water Easily Accessible
You can leave cups and jugs of water in various places throughout your loved one’s home. Try to place cups of water in your loved one’s favorite areas such as next to a favourite chair or on a nightstand near the bed.
Make Drinking Easy
There are some with dementia who have limited dexterity, so they will drink from a water bottle or easy-to-open top easier than they will from a cup. You can also have your loved one use cups with two handles and sturdy bases, which will prevent spills. One way straws are ideal for those with dementia because these straws will not return any fluid into the cups after an individual begins to suck from the straw.
Reminders and Notes
Depending on your loved ones ability you could try leaving notes for them or set up electronic reminders. There are various types of electronic reminders that can be used such as reminders that detect when someone walks by or alert the individual at certain times during the day.
Offer Food With High Water Content
When an individual does not like to drink, there are other ways to help him or her stay hydrated such as providing high water content food. Offer foods like apples, oranges, watermelon, cottage cheese, berries, and broth.
Be mindful that whilst it is important to ensure your loved one is hydrated, there is a balance between taking care and allowing the person living with dementia to keep their independence. These are just some suggestions you might want to incorporate.