It may come as a surprise to learn that as we get older, our ability to feel the sensation of thirst lessens and our kidneys are not able to conserve water as well. This means that the risk of dehydration increases in seniors, and can commonly lead to hospitalization or more serious health risks. It’s important for older adults and their loved ones to pay attention to water intake and make an effort to stay hydrated.
What causes dehydration in older adults?
Dehydration in seniors is often due to inadequate water intake, but can happen for many other reasons as well including diarrhea, excessive sweating, loss of blood, diseases such as diabetes, as well as a side effect of medication like diuretics.
Kendra Benisano, RN, BSN, Director of Home Care and Nursing Services at Seniors At Home says, “It’s important to recognize dehydration symptoms as early as possible. If dehydration is not identified and treated, the health effects are significant at any age, but amplified for older adults and can quickly become life-threatening.”
Kendra explains that there are two main benefits for older adults to stay hydrated—besides to maintain good overall health.
- Older adults who get enough water tend to suffer less constipation, use fewer laxatives, and have fewer falls. Less constipation may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Drinking at least five 8-ounce glasses of water daily reduces the risk of fatal coronary heart disease among older adults.
So how you can you prevent dehydration for yourself or a loved one? See below for Kendra’s list of symptoms to look out for, and tips for ensuring the older adults in your life stay hydrated:
Mild Dehydration Symptoms
- Producing only small amounts of dark urine
- Cramping in limbs
- Weakness, overall feeling of being unwell
- Sleepiness or irritability
- Dryness of mouth; dry tongue with thick saliva
More Serious Dehydration Symptoms
- Low blood pressure
- Dry and sunken eyes with few or no tears
- Severe cramping and muscle contractions in limbs, back and stomach
- Bloated stomach
- Rapid but weak pulse
- Wrinkled skin; no elasticity
- Breathing faster than normal
Tips for Staying Hydrated
It can be a challenge for older adults to stay hydrated when they don’t feel thirsty – and this is especially compounded by any additional health challenges or memory loss. To help with fluid intake, Kendra suggests trying these 6 tips:
- Eat foods with a naturally high water content (watermelon, cucumbers, celery, strawberries)
- Set hydration reminders (drink on the hour, use timers, during commercials, etc.)
- Experiment with beverages at different temperatures
- Try tastier alternatives to water (broth, lemon water, sparkling water, Ensure, or smoothies)
- Make healthy popsicles
- Eat Jell-O
When proper hydration and nutrition become a challenge, hiring home care can be a solution. Seniors At Home caregivers are available 4-24 hours a day and can provide the care needed to address these issues, as well as transportation, meal preparation, medication reminders, and general companionship and support.