Good nutrition is an essential factor in lifelong health, and hydration is one of its most overlooked components. Water helps us maintain body temperature, pump blood through the body, absorb vitamins and minerals, prevent urinary tract infections, and remove waste and toxic substances from the body. But did you know that seniors are at a greater risk for dehydration than younger people? Additionally, adults age 65 and up have the highest hospital admission rates for dehydration. In the summer months in particular, the risk of dehydration rises in places that experience higher temperatures, such as North Carolina. That’s why maintaining good hydration for older adults is so important.
There are a number of reasons why older adults have trouble staying hydrated. As we age, our sense of thirst becomes less acute. This means that older adults may not be as aware of their bodies’ need for water. Frail seniors might have difficulty getting up for frequent drinks of water, so they might opt to forgo water altogether. In addition, our bodies lose kidney function as we age and are less able to conserve fluid, while some seniors may be taking medications that flush water from the body.
So how do you help a senior recognize the signs of dehydration? When an older adult is mildly dehydrated, he or she may experience symptoms such as dry mouth, dark colored urine, muscle cramps, headaches, fatigue or dizziness, and overall feelings of sleepiness or irritability. However, in more severe cases of dehydration, a senior may be confused, bloated, have dry and sunken eyes, be breathing faster than normal, or be experiencing low blood pressure and a weak pulse. In such a scenario, it is advised that you call a doctor immediately.
While every person’s needs are different, a good rule of thumb is to drink one third of one’s body weight in ounces of water a day. How can seniors accomplish this when drinking water isn’t already a habit? We’ve gathered a few of our top tips to help you keep the ones you love healthy.
- Keep a water bottle within easy reach of a senior loved one’s bed or favorite chair. This will encourage him or her to keep up on water intake, even when he or she isn’t thinking about it.
- Encourage the senior to eat foods with high water content, such as soups and fruit.
- Talk to the senior’s doctor about any medications being taken that could lead to dehydration.
- Remind the senior to avoid overconsumption of drinks with a high caffeine or alcohol content, as these substances are dehydrating.
- Consider partnering with a home care provider such as Aware Senior Care. A caregiver can plan and prepare nutritious, hydrating meals and remind a senior loved one to drink water throughout the day.
For more creative solutions to help keep seniors hydrated, reach out to the care experts at Aware Senior Care, a division of Home Care Assistance. As one of the leading providers of senior home care in Raleigh, NC and nearby areas, we offer a wide range of care services, from personal care and companionship to dementia care and palliative care. Reach out to us online or give us a call at (919) 436-1871 to learn more about how to get started or to schedule a free in-home assessment.