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Dehydration - recognise the signs

Families and carers of older people are being encouraged to look out for the signs and symptoms of dehydration.

The elderly are much more vulnerable to dehydration – leading to an increased risk of falls.

Falls can be physically and mentally devastating for older people, often resulting in the loss of independence, and dehydration is a main or contributing factor in many falls.

Although dehydration can occur at any time of year, warmer weather can increase the risk. Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than it takes in and can cause light headedness and dizziness.

Falling is one of the most frequent and serious types of injury for anyone aged 65 or over -
• 50% of people aged over 80 suffer a fall each year
• 33% of people aged over 65 suffer a fall each year
• 1 in 10 elderly falls result in serious injury

Dr Peter Holloway, a GP in Mendlesham and a member of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group’s Clinical Executive, said: “Older people often experience a reduced sensation of thirst, meaning they don’t realize they need a drink.

“This particularly affects those with Alzheimer’s disease or those who have suffered a stroke. Some medicines such as diuretics and laxatives may increase the likelihood of dehydration and those who are incontinent might limit their fluid intake.

“Symptoms of dehydration include sluggishness, confusion, dizziness and dark urine. Around 20% of water in the average diet comes from food and the remaining 80% comes from drinks, so it’s important that older people have a regular intake of fluids.

“The recommendation is to drink six to eight cups of fluid each day, which includes fruit juice, tea and coffee, milky drinks and water.

“Older people should consider having a drink at specific times during the day, whether or not they feel thirsty, to make sure they don’t become dehydrated. If you look after an older person don’t rely on asking them whether they are thirsty, instead encourage them to take a drink at regular intervals. 

“Ensuring good hydration not only prevents falls, it also improves the mood, stimulates the appetite and reduces restlessness and disrupted sleep patterns.”
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