Dehydration is a serious issue for anyone, but it can present special challenges in the older community. Not only are seniors at a higher risk of becoming dehydrated, but the complications can have serious impacts on a senior’s health.
Dehydration – What Is It?
Dehydration occurs when the body isn’t taking in enough fluids to support waste elimination, regulation of body temperature, blood oxygen circulation and a host of other essential services for the body.
Risks of Dehydration for Seniors
Seniors are at a higher risk for dehydration due to the following factors:
Medication side effects. As we age, our “thirst” trigger decreases. Add to that, that one of the more common side-effects of medications is that they suppress the thirst trigger that many of us use to determine when to drink liquids. Because we aren’t aware this is a common side-effect, we can intake less water than we usually would.
Lower kidney function. As we age, our kidneys process liquids less efficiently. According to a NPR science article, younger people are about 75% water but after adulthood, that number can go down to almost 50%.
Habit. We may or may not have always had the habit to drink lots of water. A poor water habit, combined with a medication that may suppress the thirst trigger is a combination that will quickly lead to dehydration.
Living arrangements. Elders living in assisted living or nursing homes may have a higher risk of dehydration because they often rely on staff to help them with fluid intake. It then becomes the staff’s responsibility to be sure that each of their patients are properly hydrated.
Signs of Dehydration
General signs of dehydration
- Very dry skin
- Cracked lips
- Dry mouth
Signs in the elderly (or advanced dehydration for anyone)
- Lethargy (loss of “normal” energy)
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle cramps
- Dark colored urine (should be pale yellow)
**If hydration issues are a concern for you or a loved one, please contact the family physician to discuss.
How to Stay Well Hydrated
Drink lots of water. This one sounds easy, but here are some tips that will help someone who doesn’t have great hydration habits:
- Set alarms on watch or phone, drink at regular times.
- Encourage having bottles of water that can be sipped throughout the day.
- Get flavored waters, or sparkling water to mix things up and prevent “water-fatigue”. Occasional sports drinks are not harmful.
- Avoid alcohol (it’s dehydrating).
- Keep an eye on urination color.
- Encourage eating foods with a high water content, such as soup, juicy fruits (citrus, melons) and vegetables, such as cucumbers and zucchini. Popsicles or frozen fruit bars are also a great source of water.
- Stay out of the heat for prolonged periods of time.
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Do you have questions about how you can better support your loved one while they age in place in South Florida or regarding homecare in general? Please contact CareGivers of America here: Contact or call us toll free: 800-342-4197
*No information in this article is to be taken as medical advice. This post is not sponsored, but may contain external links to websites, articles or product examples. External links are used for example or refence purposes only and these links do not indicate specific product or website endorsement by CareGivers of America.