The risk of dehydration increases as we age. This is because the skin becomes thinner and kidneys function differently with age: these lead to greater loss of water from the body. When we start to feel thirsty we have already lost about 2% of our body’s essential water and we are already dehydrated. At this point our body is already functioning 10% less than it should. However, older people do not always know that they need more liquids because the thirst mechanism is likely not to work as well as it did.

Fluid is essential for life. Without enough fluid the body cannot carry out basic processes that enable it to function correctly. For example:

  • Digesting food and enabling nutrients to be absorbed
  • Enabling blood to circulate around the body
  • Removing waste products via urine and faeces
  • Keeping cells and tissues moist, helping avoid infection
  • Controlling body temperature by perspiration
  • Maintaining brain function

Early signs of dehydration include:

Feelings of thirst as the body tries to increase fluid levels

Dark coloured urine as it tried to reduce fluid loss

Headaches, tiredness and confusion, as the flow of the blood to the brain decreases

If a person has had a stomach upset, diarrhoea or a high fever it is important to ensure that they replace the fluids lost by increasing their fluid intake.

Use to answer question 8.1b of the Care Certificate

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