As we age and our bodies change, we gradually lose our sense of thirst and tend to drink less water. Water is extremely important in order for our bodies to function properly and must be replaced in order to prevent dehydration. Dehydration is one of the most frequent reasons for hospitalization after the age of 65. It can happen anytime of year! While we want everyone to enjoy themselves over the holidays, remember drinking alcohol can affect your hydration levels as well.
What can affect a senior’s fluid balance?
- Emotional stress
- Exercise or becoming overheated which leads to severe sweating
- Chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease
What are some of the signs of dehydration?
- Persistent fatigue and lethargy
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Dizziness and difficulty walking
- Confusion or forgetfulness
- Deep, rapid breathing and difficulty breathing or increased heart rate
- Signs are often identical to those of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Dry mouth, nose or skin
- Low urine output and dark colored urine
Some signs of dehydration are less well known so if you suspect a loved one is low on fluids also look for the following: sunken eyes, inability to keep fluids down and skin that lacks normal elasticity.
How can seniors prevent dehydration?
- Keep a water bottle nearby as a reminder and drink from it regularly
- Eat foods that will help you to maintain your fluid levels such as broth-based soups, watermelon, apples, oranges, cucumbers, green peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes
- Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink
- Avoid excessive alcohol intake, drink water along with enjoying an alcoholic beverage
Why is water so important for seniors?
It controls our body temperature and protects us against heat exhaustion as well as insulating us during cold weather. Water makes sure that we have the proper volume of blood in our bodies and flushes out the urinary tract. It keeps our skin as well as our eyes, nose and mouth, moist. It carries nutrients to our cells and washes away waste. It is one of the most important needs of the human body.
If you or a loved one exhibits any of the symptoms of dehydration and they persist, go to your doctor or the hospital immediately. Depending upon the severity and/or other medical conditions, dehydration can quickly lead to major medical problems or even death. Always make sure to drink lots of fluids and include fruits and vegetables that contain fluids as much as possible in your diet. For a senior with borderline dehydration adding more water to their diet can help them return to a normal life.