Everybody knows that water is essential to our health, but it’s less well known that old age can bring new obstacles to our hydration. Dehydration in older adults can quickly become life-threatening. And because the amount of water we need increases with heat and humidity, remaining vigilant about staying hydrated during the summer can easily be a matter of life or death.
The Dangers of Dehydration
The human body is in a state of perpetual water-loss, every minute of every day. Dehydration is what happens when those fluids are lost faster than they’re replaced, leaving the body unable to perform its numerous water-dependent functions.
While just one short brush with dehydration in the elderly may not lead to a hospital stay, chronic dehydration can rapidly lead to life-threatening complications. Dehydration in seniors can also lead to kidney failure, seizures, malnutrition, brain swelling, coma, and death.
Seniors often have a weakened sense of thirst, so they’re not prone to feeling particularly thirsty until dehydration has already set in. Combined with the fact an older person can’t conserve water as well as their younger counterparts, even a perfectly healthy senior may be at-risk for dehydration.
For seniors dealing with mobility issues, dementia, diabetes, or certain medications, dehydration can quickly get out of control. That’s why it’s important to look out for the signs and symptoms of dehydration in elderly adults, including dizziness, fatigue, confusion, infrequent urination, extreme thirst, and dark-colored urine.
Contrary to what you may have heard before, there’s no specific quantity of water that everybody needs to drink every day. People come in all shapes and sizes, and their water needs are just as diverse. Living in a warmer climate means you’ll need to drink more to remain hydrated. But even during the cold winter months, remaining hydrated is as important as ever.
Tips for Healthy Hydration
Just how much do you need to drink? While some experts suggest drinking as much as 2 or 3 liters of water every day, 2 or 3 glasses is enough to avoid dehydration under normal circumstances. Even though there’s no strict guideline for how much to should drink, it’s a good idea to establish some goals for fluid intake. That way you can monitor those goals, and ensure dehydration never has a chance.
People who suffer from arthritis, muscular weakness, or tremors, special drink-ware can also be useful. Straws, spill-lids, and extra handles can provide a lot of help at very little cost. And for seniors with low vision, something as simple as a brightly colored cup can make all the difference in the world.
Staying Cool in the Summer Heat
If drinking several liters of water every day was easy, we’d all be doing it. For seniors who find the idea particularly unappealing, flavored water, juice, or popsicles can be a fun alternative. Many fruits also have high water content. In fact, cucumbers, tomatoes, grapes, oranges, apples, and watermelon are more than 90% water! However, alcohol consumption does not count towards fluid intake because alcohol can actually contribute to dehydration.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the summer weather, as long as you hydrate appropriately. When the weather gets warm, your body needs more water, which is why dehydration can creep up on you. But as long as you keep an eye out for the signs of dehydration in the elderly, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some extra time in the sun.
From adding a boost of flavor to your water with sliced fruits or a splash of calorie-free drink mix, do you have any tips for keeping seniors hydrated in the summer or year ‘round? Let us know in the comments below!