As a caregiver, your concern is for your older adult’s well-being and health. So, you watch for signs of discomfort or illness and try to respond quickly and appropriately to complaints you hear from your senior or changes in their behavior or appearance.
Mobile IVs have grown increasingly popular in treating hangovers, jet lag, or for help recovering from stomach ailments or the flu—but are mobile IVs a good idea for seniors? That depends on who you ask. According to Robert H. Shmerling, MD, a mobile IV infusion of vitamins and minerals isn’t worth the $100 to $350 cost. However, some people, especially celebrities, swear by the rejuvenating qualities they claim a mobile IV drip offers.
Dehydration and IV treatments
Dehydration is a common problem among older adults. According to a National Institutes of Health report, 17% to 28% of older adults in the United States experience dehydration, even causing hospitalization when it’s severe.
The main reason for dehydration is not drinking enough water. Still, dehydration can happen even if seniors drink enough fluids if they have kidney problems or illnesses that cause them to not function how they should. For example, many blood pressure medications taken by older adults contain diuretics, which can cause dehydration.
Signs of dehydration include:
- Extreme thirst
- Infrequent urination
- Dry mouth
- Dizziness or fainting
These signs may be a cause for concern and should be discussed with a qualified health care professional.
Is a mobile IV a good idea for my senior?
Should you bring in a mobile IV to treat your senior if they’re dehydrated? This question is one you should ask your senior’s doctor before making that decision. There have been reports of infections and severe illness due to faulty mobile IV units or IVs that caused infections, so use caution before ordering a vitamin-infused IV cocktail for your loved one.
Dr. Andrew Duxbury cautions that mobile IV infusions should only be administered by a medical professional and offers words of advice for staying hydrated.
“IVs are not risk-free, which is why they’re only put in by licensed health care professionals. Home IVs are available through skilled home health services, but they’re generally not used for routine hydration, due to the risks of infection and injury involved. If the issue is one of just not taking in enough fluids, make sure fluids are at hand and that there are adequate reminders to drink.”
Some doctors, however, believe IV infusions can be beneficial, including Dr. Sam Torbati, co-chair of emergency medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He told InStyle that most of a drip’s relief comes from the fluid itself.
“Most Americans don’t drink enough water and other fluids, and drips can make them feel better with more energy,” he said. “For people who are more severely dehydrated … the effect can be even more pronounced.”
When is a mobile IV helpful?
The MD Anderson Cancer Center reports that dehydration is a frequent side effect of chemotherapy treatment in their patients due to nausea, diarrhea and vomiting that some people experience. However, it’s important to be well-hydrated before, during and after chemotherapy, so if your loved one has cancer, it could be beneficial to have a mobile IV hydration system come to their home for an infusion before and after their treatments—if your doctor recommends it.
Swallowing disorders (dysphagia)
When patients have a severe dysphagia disorder, they are often advised to stick to a diet of thickened fluids or modified solids to keep their swallowing issues to a minimum while still getting the nutrients and calories they need. Because older adults may struggle with dysphagia and IV fluids are sometimes recommended, discuss with your loved one’s doctor if a mobile IV would be an acceptable option instead of visiting an outpatient clinic or other medical facility for infusions.
Some swear by IV infusions to treat fibromyalgia and other joint diseases, but the Washington Post reports that the Myers cocktail, an IV infusion pioneered by John Myers in the 1960s that’s been reported to be effective, is no more helpful than a placebo. So, he only recommends these infusions for people with gastrointestinal tract problems who can’t absorb nutrients in other ways.
The bottom line about mobile IV infusions: If your doctor thinks getting a dose of vitamins and minerals through an IV would be helpful to your senior’s health and well-being, then do it. However, don’t expect a vitamin cocktail to be the answer to a constant hydration problem. The best way to treat dehydration is by drinking water or other fluids.