With the warm days and nights of summer fully upon us, the outdoors are likely calling to you or your loved one, inviting you to enjoy a leisurely stroll, a good book by the lake, or an afternoon of fishing with a friend. But it’s important to keep in mind that as our bodies age, the way we handle hot temperatures changes, and it can be harder to tell when we’ve had too much, which can lead to dangerous levels of dehydration before we even know it. That’s why it’s essential for seniors to stay hydrated, even if they don’t feel that hot, or don’t feel thirsty.
Signs of Dehydration in the Elderly
Before we get into ways to prevent dehydration in the elderly, here are some signs to look for that may indicate dehydration:
- Muscle Weakness or Cramping Lethargy
- Dry Mouth
- Dry Skin
- Low Blood Pressure
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Dark Urine
It’s also important to note that in seniors, feeling thirsty can actually mean you are already dehydrated. This is one of the factors that can make staying hydrated so difficult – people are less likely to drink enough fluids if they aren’t thirsty. But these tips will help!
Make Water Easily Accessible
In other words, make sure you or your loved one always has a container of cool water close by. Encourage them to coordinate taking a sip with some part of their activity, such as every time they turn two pages in their book, every time they see a bird on their walk, or through some other arbitrary reminder. Help them by refilling their bottle with cool water often. Water should also be available with every meal.
Tempt Their Sweet Tooth
Hydrating substances don’t have to be liquid. Popsicles and fresh fruits contain large quantities of water, too. Offer your loved one a refreshing popsicle on hot days, or serve up an afternoon snack of watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, and peaches. Some companies also make hydrating candy for the elderly. Jelly Drops, for instance, are a teardrop-shaped sweet developed with support from the Alzheimer’s Association that contains 95 percent water.
Don’t Get Bogged Down in Bad Science
There is a lot of conflicting information out there about just how much water you should drink and what’s healthy and what’s not. Most people are familiar with the often-repeated advice to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but there is evidence that may be too much for some seniors. Harvard Medical School says four to six cups may be more accurate if you’re generally healthy, but if you or your loved one suffers from any number of health conditions, including kidney, liver, or heart problems, or thyroid disease, or are taking medications that cause you to fluid water, you should consult your doctor for a more accurate assessment.
Another misleading factoid that’s been bouncing around for years is that drinking caffeinated beverages is dehydrating. In fact, if you or your loved one is a drinker of one of these stimulating beverages, that cup can be counted into their intake of fluids for the day. According the Dr. Daniel Vigil from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles in a Time Magazine story – and other medical experts – these beverages are mild diuretics but won’t lose more fluid through urination than you take in, and your body will still absorb as much of the water as it needs from before expelling the rest.
We hope these tips help you and your loved ones stay happy and healthy this summer and every other. For more tips on living your best life, visit the Brightwater Senior Living blog.