As the summer continues to heat up, now is the perfect time to make sure you and the seniors in your life are staying hydrated.
Seniors and risk
Seniors are at a higher risk of dehydration because as the body ages, the ability to conserve water is greatly reduced. Certain medical conditions and medications also have an impact on a senior’s ability to retain fluids.
“Due to several reasons including physiologic changes that occur with aging as well as common medications used to treat chronic health conditions, seniors are particularly at risk of becoming dehydrated, “said Dr. Michael Manka, medical director for Elderwood Health Plan. “This is especially true during the hot and humid summer weather, when fluid losses increase due to sweating.”
According to Aging Care, drugs like diuretics, antihistamines, laxatives, antipsychotics and corticosteroids can cause frequent urination that depletes of body of water and electrolytes. Seniors with incontinence sometimes purposely feel the need to avoid drinking fluids to help limit accidents. Seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s are also at risk of becoming dehydrated since they may forget to eat or drink.
Signs of dehydration
It’s important to be vigilant for signs of dehydration in seniors and thirst is not a good indicator to look for since the sensation doesn’t usually appear in a person until they are already dehydrated.
“Symptoms of dehydration are often less noticeable in the elderly and may include worsening balance, which results in falls, as well as confusion. To prevent dehydration, seniors should be extra careful when they’re exposed to hot and humid conditions and should always be aware of their fluid intake,” said Manka.
Urine color is another key indicator of dehydration to be aware of. An individual who is fully hydrated should have urine color that is clear to light yellow. Any signs of dark urine are a red flag for dehydration. Other signs include constipation, headache, cramps and dry mouth.
Ways to stay hydrated
When it comes to staying hydrated it’s important to balance fluid intake with output. Fluid intake should become more frequent when a senior is sweating or urinating more frequently.
“Under normal conditions drinking two to three glasses of water per day is advisable,” said Manka. “This amount may need to increase when exposed to hot and humid weather.” For example, if someone is partaking in physical activity or even just spending time outside in the hot summer months, they should try to drink more water than they would on a typical day.
Many seniors have a hard time with sticking with just water to keep hydrated. Adding variation like flavored water with electrolytes or fruit infused water are good ways to increase fluids and provide some variety beyond plain water.
Foods such as raw fruits and vegetables can also help with fluid intake. Vegetables like celery sticks and cucumber slices are a great hydrating snack. Cucumbers are made up of 96% water and fruits like watermelon are made up of 92% water.
Savory meals that increase fluid input include balancing a diet with chicken, beef or vegetable broth.
It’s important to remember to consult with a healthcare provider before increasing one’s fluid absorption, especially for seniors with conditions such as congestive heart failure or kidney failure.
A little extra observation and care can go a long way in helping the elderly to avoid dehydration and enjoy themselves in the summer sunshine.