Dehydration is a risk for any population, kids, adult and seniors alike. Especially when summer hits, we are running around with different outdoor activities and out of our normal routines. We may not remember to “water” ourselves. In fact, our plants are probably watered with more diligence during this time of year.
Watching for signs of illness in a loved one can be challenging. Some illnesses show up quite clearly, while others have a more subtle, even insidious, effect on daily living. Dehydration, depending on the severity, sometimes creates only small telltale signs while having a big effect on the body, especially in the elderly.
Why Elderly are Prone to Dehydration
- As people get older, body water content decreases.
- Many medications the elderly take make them more susceptible
- Underlying health conditions make them less able to adapt to heat.
- Comprehension and communication disorders, decreased mobility, reduced capacity, as well as, incontinence can contribute
- With age come decreased ability to notice changes in body temperature
- Diminished thirst; which leads to a reduced fluid consumption
- Their kidneys have a reduced ability to concentrate urine and retain water during water deprivation
How Dehydration Happens
Dehydration occurs when a person loses more water than they take in. Adequate fluid intake allows the body to regulate temperature through sweating, maintain blood pressure and eliminate bodily waste. When people can’t drink enough water – or they simply forget – dehydration sets in. Blood flow to the skin decreases, along with the ability to sweat. Result: the body heat builds up. Body temperature of 104 degrees = danger; 105 degrees = definition of heat stroke; and a temperature of 107 degrees = potential irreversible organ damage or even death.
The key is to be prepared and know what to look for. Symptoms and results of severe cases of dehydration can include confusion, weakness, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, bedsores in bed-ridden patients and death. Generally speaking, humans can’t survive more than four days without water.
Tips to Stay Hydrated
- Avoid coffee, soda, sweetened teas, alcohol and artificially sweetened juices if thirsty. Why? They might leave you feeling more dehydrated and they contain excess sugar and caffeine.
- Add a handful of berries or slices of citrus and cucumber if you do not like the taste of plain water
- Coconut water can be a great way to re-hydrate after exercise because its appealing flavor and electrolytes
- As a reminder to drink enough, keep a water bottle with you at all times, or use a mobile app (see out tech and tools article below)
If you are “thirsty” for more tips for caregivers, visit our website at www.the-caregivers-journal.com .