Diet and Exercise

National Continence Helpline

8am - 8pm Monday to Friday AEST Talk to a continence nurse

Fluid intake

Get help from a health care professional, or talk to your supervisor or care coordinator if you think the person is dehydrated. Look for the following signs:

  • not passing much urine
  • dry mouth and lips
  • more tired than normal
  • dark-yellow or brown urine.


Dehydration means that the person you support doesn't have enough fluid in their body. It is a very serious problem that can happen quickly and make them ill.

How do you know if the person is drinking enough fluid?

Keep track of how much they are drinking. For most people, drinking 1-1.5 litres (6-8 glasses) of fluid a day is enough. However, some health conditions require people to drink less or more fluid. Don't assume the person knows when they are thirsty or that they will ask for a drink.

When the person uses the toilet, compare the urine colour to the hydration chart. If their urine is:

  • clear or light yellow - they are drinking enough
  • yellow - give some more fluid
  • dark yellow or orange - give some more fluids, and check with a health care professional if it doesn't improve
  • very dark yellow or brown - the person needs to see a health care professional straight away.

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Check the person's care or mealtime plan for any special needs. These can include:

  • thickened fluid
  • fluid restrictions
  • preferred hot or cold drinks at certain times
  • a favourite cup or bottle to drink from.

What can you do if they are not drinking enough?

  1. Offer small amounts of fluid regularly (e.g. with meals or when giving medication) rather than a few big drinks.
  2. Put fluids where the person can easily reach them, if safe.
  3. Don't rush - sit with them and encourage them. Lift the drink to their mouth if needed.
  4. Remember that some foods are also a good way of getting fluid. These include:
    • soup
    • jelly
    • ice cream, yoghurt, smoothies
    • watermelon.
  5. When you go out, regularly offer them a water bottle.
  6. If the person is active or the weather is hot, they might need more fluids.
  7. If the person has a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube, make sure you follow their feeding plan.
  8. In cold weather, they may prefer hot drinks such as hot chocolate, herbal tea or soup.


If the person is not drinking much fluid, check to see if:

  • their mouth and gums are dry or have any painful areas
  • they can swallow properly
  • that they like what you are giving them to drink.

If you don't know what to do or are worried, talk to your supervisor, care coordinator or ask for help from a health care professional.

Need more help? Call the National Continence Helpline on 18OO 33 OO 66 and talk to a continence nurse advisor.

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This information is not a substitute for independent professional advice.