Combating dehydration is essential at all times of the year, but it is often at the forefront of caregivers’ minds during the hot and humid summer months. Detecting dehydration in an elderly loved one can be difficult, since symptoms can range in severity and may be mis-categorized as symptoms of chronic disease. Signs include dizziness, headache, dry mouth, low blood pressure, constipation, low urine output, and inability to sweat. Maintaining adequate fluid levels (which are different for everyone) allows our bodies to eliminate bodily waste, maintain blood pressure, and regulate our body temperature through sweating.
So why the emphasis on dehydration in seniors? Dehydration is one of the most frequent causes for hospitalization among patients over 65 years old. Illness with symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration. Additionally, many seniors are on a variety of medications including diuretics (commonly known as water pills) to treat high blood pressure and heart problems. Research also suggests that quite simply as we age, we have a less acute sense of thirst and therefore, do not hydrate as often. In the case of frail seniors, they might have difficulty walking and are unable to get a drink as often as they would like. Frail seniors thus often need to rely on caregivers to help with accessing fluids.
Preventing dehydration requires an effort to consume an adequate amount of fluids each day. Consider keeping a filled water bottle next to the bed or chair of a loved one. Often seniors will need cues or reminders to drink and they need to be consistently educated that it is still important to drink even when they are not thirsty. Many residential communities for seniors have water or juice stations that are available at all times of day, not just during meals.
Keep in mind that water-content foods like soups, and fruit such as watermelon, also can be hydrating. Beverages with a small caffeine content like decaffeinated coffee and tea can still be hydrating. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages should be consumed in moderation. Be sure to consult with your physician to understand what beverages and foods would be best to hydrate with considering your personal medical history and medications.
Staying hydrated is one aspect of overall health and wellness that we support at Weatherby & Associates, PC. If you have questions about our life care planning services, please contact our office at 860-769-6938.