The human body is made up of 60% water. Therefore, staying hydrated is the best way to keep your body functioning properly. Every day, we lose a lot of water through normal activities.
Senior citizens have a very high risk of dehydration. Keep in mind that a lot of elderly people are frequently hospitalized for dehydration after 65 years of age. As a caregiver to an elderly loved one, you need to recognize the symptoms of dehydration in seniors and make sure your loved one is properly hydrated at all times.
Why Proper Hydration is Important for Seniors & Elderly
The National Council On Aging recommends that older adults strive to drink 8 glasses of water for some of the following reasons:
- Staying hydrated affects the flow of oxygen to the brain and tissues which leads to clearer thinking and more energy.
- Water helps the stomach feel full which could reduce calories eaten with meals and can help keep the digestive processes moving properly.
- Properly hydrated people have blood that is thinner which is easier for the heart to pump through the body.
- Staying hydrated can reduce the number of headaches as well as the chance of kidney stones.
Why Are The Elderly At A Higher Risk Of Dehydration?
As we grow older, our bodies go through physiological changes that increase the risk of becoming dehydrated.
So, your elderly loved ones might likely lose their feeling of thirst and avoid drinking too much water. As we age, our metabolic rate slows down completely thereby requiring fewer calories. Also, your elderly loved ones are not as highly physical as they previously were. Appetites decrease significantly thereby eating less food. So, they get lesser fluids from food as well.
On the other hand, dehydration might be caused by medication, exercise, stress, the weather and general health. As people grow older, they are likely going to suffer from various conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Some of the medications prescribed for these conditions are known to cause dehydration as a side effect.
The body might lose its natural ability to regulate temperature depending on the changes in the environment. For instance, the layer of fat underneath the skin reduces. On the other hand, senior adults sweat less so it’s harder for their bodies to remain cool thereby resulting in overheating.
What Are The Symptoms Of Dehydration
If you are a caregiver, you need to know the various symptoms of dehydration. That way, you can provide assistance immediately after you notice that the person you are taking care of shows these symptoms. They include:
• Persistent fatigue
• Muscle weakness/cramps
• Increased heart rate
• Deep rapid breathing
• Sunken eyes
• Excess loss of fluid through urinating, vomiting, sweating and stools
• Poor intake of fluids
• Decreased tears
• Skin without normal elasticity (slowly snaps back into position)
If you notice these symptoms or if they are persistent for 2-3 days in an elderly loved one, you need to contact the doctor immediately. If not treated immediately, dehydration can cause severe health issues or death.
How To Prevent Dehydration In The Elderly
To avoid serious consequences, you need to prevent your elderly loved ones from becoming dehydrated. You can do it in the following ways.
• Make sure they are taking enough liquids. Your elderly loved ones should take at least 64 ounces of fluids such as non-caffeinated beverages and water every day.
• Don’t give your elderly loved ones caffeinated beverages because they cause frequent urination and can cause dehydration.
• Many fruits and vegetables contain water so you should include them in your loved one’s diet every day. It’s a guaranteed way to keep your loved one fully dehydrated. These include berries, melons, apples, peaches and oranges.
• The best vegetables to include in your loved one’s diet to make sure they are fully hydrated include cucumbers, lettuce, cauliflower and celery.
• If you are taking care of an elderly loved one who suffers from mobility problems, you should keep water readily available. For instance, if they are bedridden, make sure there is water near their bed and it’s easily accessible. If they are in a wheelchair, make sure there is some water near them so they can be fully dehydrated throughout the day.
• Does your elderly parent or grandparent find the taste of water quite bothersome? You can try a powdered drink that mixes to flavor the water. Don’t add excess sugar. Simply put, you need to make it fun and exciting to take water.
Dehydration can be quite disastrous for elderly people. Therefore, if you are taking care of someone, make sure they are fully hydrated at all times. With proper hydration, your loved one should be able to have a normal life even in their old age.
As you take care of your elderly loved ones, make sure you don’t neglect their basic needs such as hydration by using the tips mentioned above to avoid dehydration altogether.