Avoiding Dehydration in Seniors
It’s summer, and it’s time to pay extra attention to being hydrated. That means making sure that you monitor the possibly of dehydration in seniors. Make sure your loved ones drink enough water to maintain good health. Hot weather can be a stressor for the elderly, and combine that with not drinking enough water on a regular and daily basis, and dangerous health conditions can result.
Why We Dehydrate
- As we age, the fluid reserve in our bodies become smaller, and the sense of thirst may be diminished.
- If a patient uses certain medications, such as diuretics which cause more urination, the patient needs to counter the loss of fluids by drinking water.
- Diabetes, kidney disease and high blood pressure will also cause the patient to be vulnerable to a lack of water.
- Dementia may cause an elderly person to be unaware of their thirst.
- Mobility problems may limit an elder’s ability to get something to drink.
What should you drink to prevent dehydration?
Water is the best choice. Sports drinks that contain electrolytes are good for you too. Caffeine in coffee, tea and sodas may actually cause more urination and lead to more fluid loss. Beer, alcohol and sodas are not recommended when trying to prevent dehydration.
How much water should you drink? Men should drink 13 cups of water each day, and women should drink 9 cups of water each day, according to the Institute of Medicine quoted on the website of the Mayo Clinic. That water can come from a variety of foods and beverages, besides water itself. Milk and juice can take the place of water. Juicy fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, watermelon or cantaloupe, have lots of fluid in them too. However, be careful not to have so much fruit or fruit juice that the patient has diarrhea. Diarrhea results in a loss of bodily fluids.
What are some signs of dehydration?
Here’s a good tip from WebMD to help a caregiver recognize dehydration in seniors. Pinch the person’s forearm lightly. If the skin stands up or is bunched up where it was pinched, then the patient should drink some water. If the skin returns to its normal position, then all is well.
Symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration can easily sneak up on you. So watch out for a dry, sticky mouth, dry skin, headache, dizziness, fatigue, and decreased or darkened urine. Don’t ignore these symptoms; dehydration does not go away when it is untreated. Dizziness, headache, darkened urine, confusion and weakness are serious symptoms, and indicate that emergency medical services should be contacted immediately. Low blood pressure and rapid pulse are signs that intravenous fluids may be needed. Diarrhea that lasts more than 24 hours is an indicator that medical attention is needed. If untreated, dehydration can lead to shock, heat exhaustion or heat stroke, according to WebMD.
Be aware of these symptoms so you will know when to get medical attention immediately.
How to Prevent Dehydration
Make it a habit to carry along a bottle of water when you are in the car, or spending time outdoors this summer. Ice chips and popsicles are alternative ways to keep water available for a patient. Retreat to a shady spot outdoors or an air-conditioned place indoors regularly to avoid overheating and dehydration.
Indoors on a daily basis, make it a habit to drink water between meals. Yes, it may mean more trips to the toilet, but it is important to aid your digestion and elimination processes in your body and to avoid any symptom of dehydration.
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