The human body is made up of more than sixty percent water, which is why it’s vitally important to ensure we always have enough water, otherwise, our bodies won’t function properly. When we don’t have enough water in our bodies, dehydration sets in and can cause a whole host of health issues, and if left untreated, can be fatal. Dehydration is always something you should watch out for in seniors, but it becomes more important in the summer months.
Why seniors are at risk for dehydration
When temperatures soar in the summer months, we tend to sweat more and naturally lose water. However, seniors tend not to sweat as much, which can make it easy for them to get overheated. As we age, our bodies aren’t able to hold onto water as well, which can make it hard to adjust to extreme temperatures. In fact, they may not notice that they are overheated at all. On top of this, fluid consumption tends to naturally change with age as well. We often drink less, as we simply don’t feel thirsty as often. Many times, thirst doesn’t kick in until after dehydration has started.
For seniors, medical conditions can also lead to dehydration. For example, those with dementia may forget to eat or drink water completely. They may also have trouble swallowing, and avoid drinking anything because of this. Certain medications can cause increased urination, which can also lead to dehydration, especially if the person is not drinking enough water as it is. Also, those with a weak bladder may avoid water or fluids throughout the day in an effort to prevent accidents.
How to recognize the symptoms of dehydration
The key to prevention of dehydration in seniors is to be able to recognize the symptoms very early on. The sooner you can spot them, the quicker you can get some fluids back into their system and prevent more severe complications.
Remember that thirst isn’t always the best indicator since a person might already be quite dehydrated by the time they feel thirsty. Some early signs to watch out for include:
- Muscle cramps
- Dry mouth and tongue
- Tiredness or lethargy
- Urine that is a little more yellow than normal
These early signs can be quite subtle, so you may not always catch them. In the event that dehydration becomes more severe, here’s what to look out for:
- Little or no urination
- Very dark or amber coloured urine
- Low blood pressure
- Dry skin that doesn’t bounce back when pinched
- Rapid breath and heartbeat
- Weak pulse
- Irritability or confusion
- Cold hands and feet
How to prevent dehydration in seniors
Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to prevent dehydration. It’s as simple as ensuring your loved one gets enough water every day. Adults should take in about 64 ounces of fluid each day, which can be in the form of plain old water or any non-caffeinated drinks. (Watch out for caffeine – it can lead to dehydration, so if your loved one does like coffee or tea, make sure they have some extra water to balance it out.) Water is also present in most of the food we eat, which also keeps the body properly hydrated. It’s important for seniors to have a well-rounded diet, rich in foods that contain water, such as fruits like melons, berries, oranges and other juicy fruit. Vegetables such as lettuce, cucumbers, celery, and cauliflower also contain lots of water and are pretty tasty too!
At Bria Communities, we understand that keeping water handy is a key part of preventing dehydration. So as soon as the weather heats up you’ll see Hydration Stations in the main living areas with fresh, cold water ready any time. We often flavour the water by adding fresh lemon, citrus, mint, or cucumber, to make the idea of sipping water throughout the day more appealing. Residents can help themselves and never have to go too far to get some refreshment.