For many seniors, the warm summer months are favored over winter, due to achiness and pain associated with colder temperatures. While summer brings warmer days and more activities outdoors, it also brings the danger of dehydration. It’s easy for any of us to become dehydrated, but it can be especially dangerous for seniors. Here’s why…
Why Seniors Are More at Risk for Dehydration
There are several reasons why senior adults are at risk for dehydration and imbalanced electrolytes. As we age, our bodies don’t hold water as well as our younger years. This can cause problems regulating body temperature and even sensing true thirst. Older adults can often not realize they are thirsty and need to drink more water until they are ill from dehydration.
There are also several medications that can cause seniors to become more vulnerable to dehydration. When you add in problems such as dementia, seniors can forget to drink enough fluids which can cause them even greater risk in the sun. There are many drugs that have diuretics, laxatives or other ingredients which cause frequent urination, and this can be a real threat for seniors to become dehydrated. When urination becomes too frequent, the electrolytes can be seriously compromised. To make matters even worse, many seniors who have dealt with or fear incontinence may start refusing to drink enough fluids in order to avoid accidents.
What are the Symptoms of Dehydration?
If you are a caretaker for a senior loved one, you should be aware of the signs of dehydration. If you see any of these symptoms, speak to a medical professional to get help dealing with it. The key to avoiding the dangers of fluid loss is recognizing the early signs. Bear in mind that a person can be thirsty but still dehydrated. You should be looking for other signs also, such as cramps in the muscles, dry or white tongue, lethargy, and constipation. One of the biggest red flags is darker colored urine. A properly hydrated individual should have clear to light yellow urine output.
More Signs of Severe Dehydration
• Extended periods without urination
• Darker amber-colored urine
• Dry skin that has no elasticity when pinched
• Confusion or agitation
• Low blood pressure
• Rapid heartbeat
• Weak pulse
• Cold or clammy hands and feet
Adults need at least 64 ounces of fluid each day to stay properly hydrated. This is especially true during hot weather where we tend to be outdoors more frequently. If the heat and humidity become severe, even more water should be taken in. If the senior begins to urinate more often or is sweating a lot, then fluid intake should increase to make up for the loss. Keep in mind that this also applies in cold weather!
Increasing Fluid Intake
Many fluids can help get us to that 64-ounce amount needed each day. While water is always best, any fluid will do as long as it isn’t alcohol, which will dry you out. If your older adult is bored with plain water, try getting flavor enhancers to add to bottled water, drinking diluted juice or using a water bottle that will infuse fruit into the water.
Perhaps savory liquids will be more appealing—options such as broth or clear soups are a great way to increase fluids in the body, as well as getting some vital nutrients.
Smoothies, popsicles, and spritzers are a wonderful way to increase fluid if the person has a sweet tooth.
This may sound silly, but something as simple as how a beverage is served can have a significant impact on a person’s willingness to drink it. Cold smoothies and milkshakes should be really nice and cold, and soups and broth should be hot enough to feel like a comforting drink. Sometimes, even the glassware used has an impact on the senior’s willingness to consume more fluid. Try using pretty glassware or adding garnish to a beverage to make it look and taste more appealing.
Above all else, close communication with your senior loved one’s physician is vital. Some chronic medical conditions can cause dehydration, so more measure may need to be taken to ensure your loved one isn’t getting dehydrated.
For more information on staying hydrated this summer, please contact us today!
Home Helpers of Kenosha is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including home care assistance, personal care, companion care, respite care, Alzheimer's & dementia care, Parkinson's care as well as homemaker services in Kenosha, Racine, Sturtevant, Somers, Union Grove, and Bristol, Wisconsin.