A recent article by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights an important issue that will be facing nursing homes and elderly care takers as temperatures begin to rise in the summer months!
Keeping the elderly cool and hydrated during the summer months is incredibly important to their health and well being. One thing to remember is that elderly people naturally have less water in there systems because of their age, the likely-hood that medications they are on have symptoms of dehydration, and their sensitivity to heat and dehydration.
Elderly Are More Prone To Dehydration
The CDC states that elderly adults are more prone to heat stress and therefore dehydration for the following reasons:
- Older adults do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature.
- They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat.
- They are more likely to take prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat.
When your loved one is at a care facility and they are responsible for keeping your elderly loved one cool, hydrated and safe. It is important to ask questions, like will my loved one be allowed to go outside in extreme heat? What are plans are in place to keep my loved one hydrated and cool? What conditions does my loved one have that make them prone to dehydration and heat stress? Are there generators that kick in if the power was to be lost and the air conditioning go out? What medications are they taking that could dehydrate them?
Ignoring Medication-Related Dehydration
Dehydration is more common in the elderly for a number of reasons. A number of medications can cause dehydration by increasing fluid excretion in the urine (diuretics). Sometimes, that is a side effect. Sometimes, that is the point, such as to reduce fluids for someone with congestive heart failure.
Nursing homes are required to account for medications and other factors that could lead to dehydration. They still must ensure adequate intake for at-risk residents. Just because someone is on a diuretic does not mean they can be left to dehydrate and die.
Nursing homes that are regularly understaffed or not adequately training and supervising staff to meet the specific needs of each resident will eventually harm residents, possibly through medication errors, dehydration, malnutrition, or neglect. Understaffing and inexperience puts many residents at risk of dehydration.
Inadequate Provision of Fluids or Assistance
Fluid intake for the elderly at nursing homes is imperative. Nursing home residents become dehydrated in many cases because of inadequate nursing home staffing, because staff do not have the time to ensure every resident’s care needs are met.
Meal trays and drinks are left without monitoring intake or assisting with eating or drinking. Lack of adequate nursing supervision contributes to nursing home resident dehydration. Sometimes staff falsely document they provided help. Sometimes they just leave it blank.
Tips for Keeping your Loved One Cool and Hydrated
The CDC has released some guidelines to help keep your elderly loved one safe:
- Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, contact your local health department or locate an air-conditioned shelter in your area.
- Do not rely on a fan as your main cooling source when it’s really hot outside.
- Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
- If your doctor limits the amount of fluids you drink or has you on water pills, ask them how much you should drink during hot weather.
- Don’t use the stove or oven to cook—it will make you and your house hotter.
- Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
- Do not engage in very strenuous activities and get plenty of rest.
- Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
All of things are actions you can take and should be aware of while your loved one is in a care facility. There are other tips to keeping your loved one safely hydrated in a nursing home:
- Offer fluids regularly during the day
- Provide liquids readily available all day (at bedside or chairside in geriatric institutions) by placing containers such as small bottles of water or sippy cups
- Encourage consumption of fluids with medication Provide preferred beverages
- Prescribe and ensure a minimum intake of 1.5 litres, in periods of increasing risk for dehydration
All of these things are super important and can be a matter of life and death. If you have any questions regarding nursing home negligence relating to dehydration and malnutrition, please visit my page here that is dedicated to keeping you informed on elderly dehydration and malnutrition. If you have questions, you can contact me here.
You can access the CDC article and resources here.