Especially during the summer months, dehydration is a common condition in seniors that can lead to serious health issues if not properly handled. Whether you are considering your own health or taking care of a loved one, getting informed about dehydration will help you better manage the condition.
Why are seniors at higher risk of dehydration?
Body water decreases with aging. Dehydration sets in when you don’t drink enough water due to sickness, preoccupation or lack of access. Other causes include:
- Health conditions that reduce senior’s ability to adapt to heat such as decreased sensitivity to body temperature
- Medications that increase the risk of being dehydrated either directly or as a side effect
- Kidneys inability to retain water
- Diminished sense of thirst
- Forgetting to drink water due to memory problems
What signs to look out for?
When an elderly person becomes dehydrated they may experience one or more of these symptoms at the initial stages:
- Dry mouth
- Dizziness or headaches
- Dry skin
- High fever
- Low urine output
- Rapid heart rate
If dehydration is not addressed, serious complications such as the following may occur.
- Heat Injury: This occurs when seniors engage in vigorous physical exercise while already dehydrated. It may cause mild heat cramps or severe heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
- Kidney problems: If dehydration is left unchecked, it can lead to the formation of kidney stones, which may progress to kidney failure.
- Electrolyte Imbalance: Electrolytes such as sodium and potassium are involved in a small electrical signal in the body and they must remain in equilibrium to function properly. When the body loses water continuously, this balance is upset. This may result in shocks, seizures and loss of consciousness.
- Low blood pressure: Water makes up a larger part of blood our volume. Untreated dehydration reduces blood volume, which can lead to a drop in blood pressure and attendant reduction in oxygen reaching your body. Loss of consciousness and other complication may follow.
How to prevent dehydration in seniors?
Seniors need to take about 8 ounces of fluid daily. More fluid needs to be taken when vomiting or suffering from diarrhea. In addition, strenuous exercise and hot weather cause the body to lose more water, which must be replaced through the increased intake.
Tips to get seniors to drink more water
Even if water is available, your loved one may be averse to drinking it due to taste or behavioral reasons. You can help them by trying these tips:
Offer seniors more fluid options
Plain water is not the only way for seniors to get hydrated. Other options such as tea, fruit juice, and sweetened beverages all contain water and can help prevent dehydration. You can also include foods such as watermelon that have a high water content in the meal of your loved one.
Make water easily available
Make sure your loved one doesn’t have an excuse for not drinking water by placing water where it is accessible for them whether it is near their bed or their favorite sitting spot. You can even get them a special cup to make drinking their water more fun!
Give them tasty treats
Water doesn’t taste great but many soups do. If your loved one enjoys drinking soup broth, that is a good way to get them hydrated.
Offer smoothies and milkshakes
Smoothies and milkshakes may be a great option for seniors who refuse to drink water or other common fluids.
Try different beverage temperature and preferences
Seniors have preferences even for the texture and temperature of the foods they like. You can communicate with them or detect their choices through observation. A warmed-up juice, decaf coffee with cream or a soda water may be all you need to spark their interest in fluid intake!
Helping an older person increase their fluid intake is the best way to prevent dehydration. Check with your doctor if you want to introduce a new drink to your loved one’s menu so it doesn’t interfere with their current medications. If you are a caregiver, stay alert to signs of dehydration, monitor medications for side effects and ensure that seniors have plenty of water or other fluids every day!