10 easy ways to keep residents hydrated

Water is vital to life. It regulates our body temperature, assists in food digestion, transports nutrients to the bloodstream, lubricates joints, helps deliver oxygen all over the body, clears the body of waste through urination and helps the brain manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters. As we get older, staying hydrated becomes more difficult. With age, the body’s ability to conserve water decreases. Additionally, some older people may lose their sense of thirst. To further complicate matters, some medicines like diuretics might cause frequent urination and make it even more important to have plenty of fluids. Residents with cognitive problems may not recognize thirst or be able to ask for a drink. Some residents with incontinence or swallowing difficulties may restrict their intake of liquids. All of these factors can easily lead to an older adult becoming dehydrated before they even realize it.

Severe dehydration can lead to serious problems such as delirium, seizures and kidney failure. Many hospital admissions of nursing home residents are associated with dehydration or illnesses related to dehydration. Thus, it’s important for long-term caregivers to be proactive and recognize the need for hydration early to prevent complications from lack of fluids. The following are common signs of severe dehydration:

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Dark urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Irritability, dizziness or confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Little or no urination
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate
  • Reduced skin elasticity
  • Speech difficulties
  • Sunken eyes
  • Upper body weakness
  • Weak pulse

Ways to ensure hydration
Making sure residents have enough fluids every day is essential to maintaining their good health. Individual fluid intake requirements vary from person to person and can depend on many factors such as body weight, activity level and health conditions. However, it’s important to try to balance a resident’s fluid intake with output. Although encouraging drinking water is the simplest option for hydration, there are several ways to support fluid intake. Try these tips for helping residents get enough fluids:
  • Continually train staff on the importance ensuring hydration
  • Identify and regularly assess residents that are at risk of dehydration
  • Document all residents’ fluid intake
  • Encourage drinking during mealtimes
  • Offer fluids at routine events such as after bathing or when a resident prepares to leave their room
  • Find out residents’ beverage preferences and offer those drinks
  • Have a social hour where beverages are offered
  • If a resident refuses to drink, offer food options such as soup, yogurt, gelatin, ice cream, ice pops, thickened liquids and high-water content fruits and vegetables like watermelon, citrus and cucumber.
  • Provide wheelchair accessible beverage stations in common areas
  • Educate family members and visitors about the importance of hydration and offering drinks during visits
The Compliance Store is the only comprehensive web-based regulatory compliance management resource for long-term healthcare facilities. The website has several tools to help you manage residents’ hydration. To learn more, go to www.TheComplianceStore.com

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