Dehydration is a serious issue for all ages, but for older adults, it can have especially harmful effects. But when we reach our senior years, maintaining adequate hydration isn’t just as simple as gulping a glass of water when we feel thirsty. Today we will discuss why staying hydrated is so vitally important for older adults, how caregivers can recognize dehydration, as well as some tips to help make sure you or your aging loved ones get plenty of fluids during the heat of summer, and throughout the rest of the year as well.care
Dehydration In Seniors
It is estimated that the average total body water content of a person aged 75-80 is less than half of what it was in their younger years. There are many reasons that this occurs. Still, the main point is that as we get older it becomes more and more important to stay adequately hydrated because our bodies don’t hold as much fluid as they used to which makes it much easier to become dehydrated.
Another reason that older adults are more likely to become dehydrated is that as we age our sense of thirst diminishes. In a younger person feeling thirsty is an early sign that dehydration may be imminent, but those 60 and over may not even feel thirsty until they are already significantly dehydrated. Conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s increase the risk of dehydration because the person may not even recognize thirst when it occurs. Some seniors who deal with incontinence self-restrict fluids in an attempt to control their condition. All of these factors play a role in seniors’ awareness and ability to meet their daily liquid intake needs.
Seniors’ immune systems are often weaker, making them more prone to contracting colds, flu, and gastrointestinal illnesses that cause additional fluid loss. Certain medications such as diuretics and blood pressure medications can further compound the problem. So be sure to have a conversation with your healthcare provider about signs and symptoms to watch for when starting a new medication.
Recognizing Dehydration In Seniors
You might think that extreme thirst would be the first sign of dehydration in seniors, but as we talked about before the sense of thirst is compromised as we age. The most common symptoms of dehydration in older adults are confusion and weakness. They may also have reduced skin elasticity, dark urine, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, headache, rapid heart rate, hot and dry skin, inability to sweat, or blood pressure changes. If you notice any of these symptoms it could mean that your loved one is seriously dehydrated and you should seek medical attention for them right away.
Preventing Dehydration In Seniors
So how do you monitor and prevent dehydration in someone that doesn’t feel thirsty when they should? One way is to monitor intake. While the necessary daily fluid intake can vary from person to person, a good rule to start with is the eight glasses a day recommendation, unless their healthcare provider advises otherwise. Another way to monitor hydration is by daily weights. If someone loses more than two pounds throughout the day it is usually due to fluid loss and is a good indication of dehydration.
So encourage your aging loved ones to track their fluid intake and drink the recommended amount of water, whether they are thirsty or not, and encourage them to consume foods that are high in fluid content such as juicy fruits, vegetables, and soups. Don’t wait until they are thirsty to offer them a drink. Encourage a steady intake of fluids throughout the day by keeping a water bottle nearby. And older adults should limit their intake of coffee and alcohol which can make dehydration worse.
It’s always easier to prevent a problem than it is to correct one, and this is true in the case of dehydration as well. Staying on top of hydration and taking steps to prevent it will ensure that your aging loved ones stay hydrated and healthy through the heat of summer and all year long.
At Ashbridge Manor Senior Living we pride ourselves on creating an environment that enables seniors to lead a fulfilling, socially active lifestyle and independent lifestyle. When it’s time to transition to a senior living facility, contact our professional staff members and we can help make it easy. You can find us at 971 E. Lancaster Avenue in Downingtown, PA, call 610.269.8800, or contact us online for more information. Ask us about our move-in special!