Preventing dehydration in people with dementia
How much do we take for granted our ability to satisfy our own needs? When we are cold, we reach for a jumper; when we are restless, we go for a walk; when hunger strikes we head to the kitchen; when it’s warm, and our mouth is dry we reach for a cold beverage, or if it’s nippy outside, a cup of tea snuggled on the sofa with a loved one.
Responding to our core needs are not just part of everyday survival, but critical to regulating our mood. You might be familiar with the term Hangry, a twenty-first-century word used to describe a person that presents with signs of hunger-associated anger, often caused by a drop in blood sugar levels, but a symptom that quickly diminishes once food is consumed. The effects of thirst and dehydration have their impacts too, and in a person with dementia, a lack of fluids can quickly bring about excessive tiredness, confusion, irritability, and medical emergencies that can include Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s) requiring hospital admission.
Now, let us turn the dehydration leads to confusion statement on its head. While thirst in any person can indeed lead to confusion, confusion itself can be the catalyst for dehydration, let me explain.
Let us assume that your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, after much deliberation and exploration of dementia care homes you and your family have made the difficult decision to place your dementia diagnosed person into care. Already coping with the confused state that dementia brings, your person with dementia will be adjusting to large groups of new people that include other residents along with uniformed health care professionals, they may find themselves surrounded by people they don’t know and in an environment that feels largely unfamiliar. In some instances, this onslaught of new faces means that a care home environment can add to the confusion of someone that is already struggling to make sense of their world. That person may well look for ways to exit the building in an attempt to return to the home they left behind—they just want to go home.
When a person with dementia finds themselves further confused, it can trigger anxiety, agitation, or depression; these emotion-led states can prevent an individual with dementia from wanting to drink, often exacerbated through the avoidance of social situations where they might share cups of tea across a kitchen table or meet in the garden on a warm day for a glass of squash.
Minimising confusion for a person with dementia is key to maintaining good health through sufficient hydration. Making their new home as welcoming, safe and familiar as possible, and filling the void of what they have left behind by encouraging involvement in the preparation of home-cooked food, or providing the freedom to grab a snack from the kitchen will help with their settling. Let us not underestimate, too, the joy of smelling flowers in the garden or listening to the birds sing, these experiences and more are all vital to a person’s state-of-mind and will help in driving down confusion.
Reduced confusion will see your person with dementia enjoying life, enabling them to connect better with their environment and those within it. With enhanced connection, those with dementia will feel more enthused to socialise regularly, and consequently, eating and drinking will become a more natural part of their day. Through a maintained fluid intake, physical and mental wellbeing can be optimised, and hospital intervention reduced.
Leaf Care Dementia Care Homes have a reputation for minimising the confusion of residents through the advocating of small-group-living. We actively place people that have similar outlooks on life together, maximising their opportunity for attachment and closeness. We offer a homely environment that feels familiar, one that intentionally reflects the typical home they left behind. If you have any questions or think we can be of further support to you, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org