Tackling dehydration can help to reduce the risk of falls

Posted on: 28/10/2021

Dehydration can be a very common cause of falls in older adults. It can often cause dizziness and a drop in blood pressure, which can increase the risk of falling over.

However, dehydration is also something that can be easily avoided. So, what are the symptoms of dehydration you should look out for?

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Appearing slow or sluggish
  • Dry mouth, lips and eyes
  • Not urinating often and/or dark, strong-smelling urine

If you notice any of these symptoms in your loved one, it’s important to help them rehydrate so that you can reduce the likelihood of them falling over and to avoid other complications. You then need to understand why your loved one has become dehydrated so that you can help them avoid it again in the future.

Common causes of dehydration
As we age, the feeling of thirst naturally declines. This means that one of the most common reasons for not drinking enough is that your loved one just may not feel thirsty. However, here are some of the other common reasons why your loved one may be becoming dehydrated.

1. They experience incontinence. If your loved one experiences this, they may reduce the amount they drink in order to try and avoid it, which can then lead to dehydration.

2. They struggle to make themselves a drink. If your loved one struggles with eating and drinking, or they have limited mobility, it may mean they need help to make a drink. If they live alone, it may be too difficult for them to drink as regularly as they should do.

3. They are living with dementia. If your loved one struggles with their daily routine because they are living with dementia, it is possible that they will simply forget to drink.

4. They are taking certain medications. Some medications can act as a diuretic, which may lead to a loss of fluids. If those fluids aren’t replaced, it may lead to your loved one becoming dehydrated.

5. They have recently experienced vomiting and or diarrhoea. As above, vomiting and diarrhoea can lead to a loss of fluids, which will need to be replaced to avoid dehydration.
Once you have identified the cause of the dehydration, you can begin to address the problem and reduce the risk of dehydration and falls.

Tips to reduce dehydration and the risk of falls
Depending on the cause of dehydration, below are some ways in which you can reduce the risk of your loved one becoming dehydrated:

  • If your loved one experiences incontinence, find ways to build their confidence around having a drink. This could be by encouraging them to drink little and often throughout the day, so that they are less likely to urgently need the toilet after a big drink. It could also be stopping drinking at a certain point in the evening, to reduce the likelihood of any accidents in the night. In addition, explain to them how dehydration could actually be making their incontinence worse, as it can irritate the bladder.
  • If your loved one is living with dementia, create reminders or cues that they see to remind them to have a drink. This could be by calling them throughout the day, sticking post-it notes or other visual cues around their home, or using technology to remind them to drink little and often.
  • If your loved one struggles with mobility or easily making drinks for themselves, consider ways in which you can make it as easy as possible for them. This could be as simple as having a water bottle that they can easily take around with them and fill up from the tap.

Ultimately, the more you can encourage your loved one to stay hydrated, the less likely they are to experience a fall caused by dehydration.

For other risk factors and causes of falls and advice on how you can help to reduce the risk, click here to read our blog on the top 9 causes of falls in the elderly and how to manage them.