People with dementia at greater risk of dehydration in the heat

Dehydration: Dr Phillipa outlines the main symptoms

Dementia is a group of symptoms associated with the progressive decline of the brain.

It can present in different ways, however, common dementia symptoms include problems with memory and conversing, and behavioural changes.

This can make completing everyday tasks and looking after yourself more difficult.

And according to the Alzheimer’s Society, people with dementia can be especially vulnerable during the summer for this reason.

The charity warns that it can put them at risk of dehydration.

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It explains: “Dehydration is a common challenge for older people, and especially those with dementia.

“Memory problems mean someone with dementia can easily forget to drink enough water.

“What’s more, the part of the brain that recognises you’re dehydrated and sends a message to let you know you’re thirsty doesn’t always work properly.

“Some medications and dementia-related illnesses can also make dehydration worse.”

Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in.

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This can be due to not drinking enough water, excessive sweating, vomiting or diarrhoea.

It can lead to fatigue, dizziness and a fast heartbeat. In extreme circumstances it can also cause seizures and, ultimately, death.

If you are concerned that a loved one with dementia could be at risk for dehydration there are steps you can take to keep them safe.

Leave accessible drinks of water

“Leave beakers or jugs of water within easy reach,” the Alzheimer’s Society says.

“This is especially important for people with limited mobility, who aren’t able to get up and make themselves a drink.”

Make drinking easier

The charity advises: “Have a clear beaker so the person can see what’s inside (this may not work so well with water) or a brightly coloured cup to draw attention.

“Make sure the beaker is within the line of sight. Having a beaker that is suitable (not too heavy or an odd shape) can help. Straws might also be a good idea.”

Share drinks together

“Have a cup of tea or a soft drink with the person and make sure they’re drinking during mealtimes,” it suggests.

Leave reminders

The charity says: “Make sure the person with dementia remembers to drink regularly by leaving notes out for them or putting up notices around the house.

“You could also set up a phone reminder or set an alarm clock.”

Provide high water content foods

It adds: “Supplement water and other drinks with foods that are high in fluids.

“Some good options include ice lollies, jelly, ice cream, soup and fruit such as melon.”

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Increased confusion (compared to typical dementia symptoms)
  • Dark and strong-smelling urine
  • Dry mouth, lips and eyes
  • Headaches or dizziness
  • Feeling tired
  • Not peeing very often (fewer than four times a day).

If someone you know experiences these symptoms you should encourage them to drink water and seek medical attention if necessary.

Take them to hospital if their condition worsens or doesn’t improve.

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