With summer well and truly here, there is no better time to make sure you’re keeping well hydrated. In Australia, heatwaves are becoming longer, hotter and more frequent1. Heat-related illnesses such as dehydration, is a common problem amongst seniors, especially those ageing in place.
As Australia’s leading home care provider, this is an issue we pay especially close attention to this time of year. Our care workers are trained in the dehydration symptoms to watch out for in our clients and know what steps to take to ensure they are well hydrated.
As we age, our bodies aren’t able to retain as much water as we could when we were younger. We have lower fluid reserves in the body, which means we need to take more active measures to stay well hydrated. This is a key focus for us at Home Care Assistance, especially with high temperatures during this time of the year.
The most vital substance for a healthy mind and body is unquestionably, water. Through normal daily activities, adults lose up to nearly 2.5 litres of water a day2, so it is important to monitor how much water you drink throughout the day and to replenish it. In addition to lower fluid reserves as we age, dehydration may also result from other medical issues common in Seniors. These may include the diuretic side effects of medication, as they promote fluid loss or interfere with thermoregulation, diabetes or diarrhea.
When we are well hydrated our physical and mental staying power is boosted, muscle cramps are decreased or prevented, toxins are flushed, and our digestive system works better with stools softened so they’re easier to pass. It is especially important to stay hydrated in the summer as heatwaves in Australia have caused more deaths than any natural disaster over the past 100 years1.
Keeping well hydrated is very important for keeping the body working properly as it impacts all the body’s systems. Common signs of mild dehydration to look out for in yourself or that of a loved one may include:
- Dry lips
- Dry mouth
- Flushed skin
- Dark or yellow urine
- Decreased urine output
- Little or no sweating
- Cramping in arms or legs
Whereas signs of serious dehydration may also include:
- Low blood pressure: pulse may be fast but weak
- Shaking and seizures
- Acute cramping in limbs, back and stomach
- Bloated stomach
- Sunken dry eyes
- Wrinkly skin with no flexibility
- Rapid breathing, faster than normal
In the instance that you or a loved one has serious dehydration symptoms, the goal isn’t just to increase fluid intake but to seek additional medical assistance.
The good news is that there are things you can do to continually feel hydrated and to prevent dehydration. These include:
- Increase fluid intake gradually and consistently throughout the day
- Stay cool, by staying inside during the hottest part of the day during summer which is typically between 11am to 3pm
- Limit prolonged physical exertion during the hotter times of the day
- Drinking chilled tap water is generally the best choice of beverage
- Dress in loose and light-coloured clothing
- Keep low-sugar sports drinks with electrolytes on hand, especially on days where the temperature is high
- Where possible, avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages due to their diuretic effect
- Consume water-rich food including fruit and vegetables – did you know cucumbers are 96% water?
- Move somewhere cool or airconditioned
If you’re a family caregiver, you can best support your older loved ones in home care by:
- Frequently encouraging and offering regular hydration, especially to anyone who may be physically limited.
- Using a journal to track your loved one’s fluid intake or put a reminder on their phone to drink water.
- If you have a fussy family member who doesn’t love to drink water on its own, encourage diluted juice, sugar-free cordial and change up the temperature of beverages e.g. an iced tea.
- If your loved one lives alone, and is ageing in place, make sure they have an easy way to access water throughout the day. This is important if your loved one is living independent, because they may not be offered water otherwise.
- If your loved one lives in aged care, ask how the aged care provider keeps residents hydrated.
- Consider using a spray bottle to cool the person down.
- Support physical exertion in the morning or late afternoon.
- Encourage social interactions in a cool location.
Home Care Assistance care workers are vigilant and, trained to prevent possible dehydration and are always on the lookout for any signs. It’s no secret that during Australian summers, we can become dehydrated easily and quickly. At Home Care Assistance we encourage everyone to keep their fluids up over this summer period.
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As a leading age care provider, Home Care Assistance offers tailored in-home care services for older Australians, enabling them to live happier and healthier lives in the comfort of their own homes.
We offer private and government subsidised Care Packages and have office locations that are a registered NDIS provider. Our Care Workers undergo extensive training in order to deliver unmatched in-home aged care services where people can continue ageing in place. We are proud ambassadors of the My Aged Care government funded aged care program, enabling Australians to successfully navigate the process and gain approval for in-home care support packages. Home Care Assistance offers hourly care, specialised care, Alzheimer’s and Dementia care, hospital to home care, and 24 hour in home care.