Nine tips for keeping resident dehydration at bay

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. Dehydration can be a sneaky danger, especially during the winter months. Indoor heating and extra layers of clothing and bedding can contribute to the loss of water.

As we get older, staying hydrated also 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 a resident becoming dehydrated before they even realize it.

Severe dehydration can lead to serious problems such as delirium, seizures and kidney failure. Many rehospitalizations 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.

Symptoms of 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:

  1. Continually train staff on the importance ensuring hydration
  2. Identify and regularly assess residents that are at risk of dehydration
  3. Document all residents’ fluid intake
  4. Encourage drinking during mealtimes
  5. Offer fluids at routine events such as after bathing or when a resident prepares to leave their room
  6. Find out residents’ beverage preferences and offer those drinks
  7. During activities, offer drinks or bottles of water
  8. 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.
  9. Educate family members and visitors about the importance of hydration and offering drinks during visits
The Compliance Store can help

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 including a hydration policy, a Plan of Correction packet and information about related F-tags. To learn more, go to