What is healthy hydration?
Fluids make up over two thirds of our body and we need enough fluid in our bodies to stay healthy. Being well hydrated brings physical benefits (e.g., helping digestion, keeping skin healthy, aiding waste and toxin removal) as well as mental health benefits, e.g., reduced tiredness and confusion.
Why is hydration so important for older people?
As we get older, our sense of thirst decreases, and our kidneys do not work as well. It may also be more physically difficult to drink. Certain conditions, such as dementia and acute illness increase the likelihood of becoming dehydrated.
What are the effects of not drinking enough fluid?
Becoming dehydrated affects our health, quality of life and wellbeing. Dehydration is a common cause of hospital admission and can slow down recovery time. Dehydration can also:
Lead to infections, such as urinary tract infections
Make the symptoms of other illnesses worse
Increase the risk of constipation, falling and developing pressure sores
Reduce mental performance (e.g., memory, attention, reaction times) and increase tiredness
Signs of dehydration
You’re dehydrated when you lose more fluids than you have consumed. Feeling thirsty is usually a good indication that you have become dehydrated. If you struggle to recognise when you should have a drink, other signs of dehydration include:
strong-smelling urine (pee)
feeling dizzy or lightheaded
dry mouth, lips or eyes
urinating less than usual
How much should we drink?
Aim to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid each day (a minimum 1.5 litres). All non-alcoholic fluid counts including water, tea, coffee, milk, fruit juice and smoothies – every sip counts! About a fifth of the fluid, we need each day comes from food. Eating water-rich foods (such as cucumber, tomatoes, watermelon and strawberries) is a great way to increase your water intake. These foods tend to be fruits and vegetables, so consuming them will also help you to maintain a healthy diet.
Tips to stay hydrated
Drink your favourite drinks little and often – every sip counts!
Try adding pieces of fruit (such as lemon, lime or orange slices) to a glass or bottle of tap water. Doing this will add some essential vitamins and minerals to your drink, as well as giving it a fruity taste.
Taking a refillable water bottle with you on your travels will ensure you always have a drink nearby. Using a refillable bottle instead of bottled water is also a lot cheaper and better for the environment.
Having water bottles/jugs to hand can act as a visual reminder to drink.
Alcohol is a diuretic, so drinking lots of it makes you go to the toilet more. It’s important that you replace the water that leaves your body when drinking alcohol to ensure you don’t get dehydrated.
Include more fluid-rich foods e.g., soups, tinned fruit in juice and adding sauces to meals, can help increase your fluid intake.
If you live a busy lifestyle, drinking water regularly can sometimes become an afterthought. There are a variety of hydration apps available for your smart phone that will remind you to drink, while also allowing you to set goals and track your progress. You could also use the start or end of your favourite TV programmes as triggers/ reminders for a drink.
Helping someone to drink more
If you are a friend, family member, carer or health and social care worker of someone who needs to drink more fluids, here are some things you could do:
Make extra drinks during your visit and share drinks together
Buy a range of drinks and fruits/smoothies
Provide encouragement to drink little and often
Suggest drinks from the person’s childhood, or ice creams with wafer for fun alternatives
Buy a drinking aid, e.g., cup with electronic reminders to drink, or specialist cup with handles
Set up electronic aids, e.g., alarms and reminders on devices may help the person drink more