While dehydration is serious at any age, it can have particularly dire consequences for older adults.
Unfortunately, staying hydrated during the senior years involves more than downing a glass of water when you’re thirsty.
Read on to learn more about why adequate hydration is of particular importance for seniors, and find some tips for making sure they get plenty of fluids during the summer months and throughout the year.
Seniors and Dehydration
According to Today’s Geriatric Medicine, the total body water content of a 75 to 80-year old individual is less than half that of a younger person. While this occurs for a number of reasons, the takeaway is the same: taking in ample fluids is essential.
One reason seniors are more prone to become dehydrated is that thirst -- a typical indication of imminent dehydration -- may no longer be an accurate indicator of fluid needs because of factors like self-restricting fluids due to incontinence and dementia-related confusion which can not only affect how much seniors drink, but also interfere with their awareness of whether or not they’re meeting their liquid goals.
Furthermore, because seniors often have weaker immune systems making them more vulnerable to flu, colds, and other illnesses, additional fluid loss may occur. This can be compounded by some medications, so be sure to check in with your loved one’s healthcare provider about things to watch for when new prescriptions are introduced.
How do you know if your loved one is dehydrated? The most common signs and symptoms of severe dehydration are weakness and confusion. Other things to watch for include dark urine, reduced skin elasticity, dry mouth, fatigue, headache, dizziness, increased heart rate, or changes in blood pressure.
Preventing Dehydration in Older Adults
While the old “eight glasses a day” recommendation is variable, it’s a good starting point for most people. Monitoring body weight is also a particularly effective way to track hydration. If your aging loved one loses more than two pounds over the course of the day, he/she is likely dehydrated.
In addition to encouraging your loved one to consume fluids, introduce foods that are high in water content, such as fruits, vegetables, and even soup. And don’t wait until your loved one says he’s thirsty before offering a drink. Instead, make sure he has a nearby water bottle at all times: drinking small amounts throughout the day can be more effective than forcing down large quantities at once. Lastly, limit your aging loved one’s intake of coffee and alcohol, as these can have a diuretic effect.
Ultimately, it’s easier to head off dehydration in seniors than to treat the condition when it progresses to a severe state. Understanding why dehydration occurs and implementing preventative measures can help ensure that your aging loved one stays hydrated and healthy during the summer months.
While anyone can suffer from dehydration, seniors are particularly vulnerable for a number of reasons.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of dehydration can help caregivers take quick corrective measures
Be sure to keep fluids in easy reach and a water bottle always available.
Encourage your loved one to choose foods that are high in water, which can help seniors meet their daily needs.
About Marissa Salvesen
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
Connect with Marissa Salvesen
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