Drink more, stay healthy!

The Northern Trust is highlighting the need to ensure that older people drink enough fluids particularly during warm spells and over the summer months.

Dehydration in Older People Awareness Week runs from 11 to 17 June and the Trust is developing detailed information for Health and Care staff who look after older or chronically ill people. The key messages are also vital for older people themselves, their carers and those with older relatives.

Dehydration can cause a range of serious problems from tiredness and headaches to dizziness and fainting, leading to falls and accidents in the home. Severe heat stroke in older people, those with dementia and chronic respiratory conditions or illnesses such as diabetes can lead to organ failure in extreme situations.

The Met Office ‘Heat-Health Watch’ scheme will declare local and national alerts to raise awareness during periods of higher temperatures. These notifications fall into four levels of alert and preparedness with level four being the most severe.

The people likely to be affected and those who care for them should look out for possible symptoms of dehydration. Key among these are headaches, tiredness, lack of concentration and confusion as well as dry mouth and eyes and of course thirst.

It is recommended that people drink eight large cups – around 1.5 to two litres – of water a day. This is particularly important if they are taking regular medication.

Marina Lupari, Assistant Director of Nursing Research with the Northern Trust has been developing a toolkit for Trust Staff leading up to Dehydration Awareness Week. She says awareness is the key to preventing serious problems.

“People who live with and look after older people know them best. They will recognise any changes in behaviour and identify symptoms such as tiredness and reduced concentration. It may then be a simple matter of offering more water or fruit and fruit-based drinks.

“If symptoms are more severe, such as concentrated or strong coloured urine or if there is a persistent urinary tract infection or recurrent constipation, carers should seek advice from their doctor.

“The important thing is that a good, managed routine of fluid intake will help prevent some of the more severe symptoms. The best advice is to drink plenty and often during the day.”

The Northern Trust has further information on their website www.northerntrust.hscni.net which may be useful to those caring for older or chronically ill people.

A leaflet on dehydration developed by NHS Leeds Community Healthcare, NHS Leeds and Leeds City Council as a public health awareness campaign is available at

http://www.thenacc.co.uk/assets/downloads/167/Spotting%20dehydration%20Leeds%20Leaflet.pdf