Now that the summer months are upon us, we are preparing for warmer weather by stocking up on sunscreen, renewing pool memberships, and buying those much-needed summer clothes. One of the most important things we must remember to do is to keep not only ourselves, but our beloved elderly friends and family members, adequately hydrated. When not properly hydrated, it can lead to other serious health problems, including low blood pressure and infections. According to The University of Chicago Medical Center, 40% of heat-related fatalities in the U.S. were among people over the age of 65.
Causes of Dehydration in the Elderly
There are many reasons why the elderly can become dehydrated more easily than younger generations. One reason may be that they cannot easily or effectively communicate their needs for fluid intake. Lack of supervision may be another reason, especially when the elderly person is unable to adequately care for themselves. Take into consideration the medications that the elderly person takes on a regular basis. This can greatly contribute to the problem of dehydration, as can diminished thirst, another common issue. We must remember to offer water and other hydrating beverages to our elder loved one's on a regular basis, even if they are not asking us for it. Encouraging an older person to drink a sufficient amount, especially in the hot summer months, is vital to their health and well-being.
Signs of Dehydration in the Elderly
Always be aware of the potential signs of dehydration in an elderly person. These can include the following:
- Dry skin
- Decreased urination
- Complaints of dizziness or headaches
- Sunken Eyes
- Difficulty Walking
All of these issues can progress into further problems as the dehydration becomes more severe, including low blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and hospitalization. Some other severe issues include:
- Kidney failure. An extreme lack of hydration prevents the kidneys from removing waste from the blood.
- Involuntary muscle contractions, leading to seizures.
- Swelling of the brain, as the cells in the brain sometimes attempt to store water too rapidly.
How to Prevent Dehydration
It is easy to help the prevention of dehydration in an elderly person. Instead of assuming that they will tell you when the need for water or another beverage arises, be proactive. When the person takes a medication, have them drink not just a sip of water, but a full eight ounces. You can also make hydration more tasty by preparing a pitcher of water with slices of lemon or lime for added flavor. This may encourage the older person to drink even more. Always make sure several bottles of water are available and within easy reach of the elderly person, and do periodic "checks" to ensure that they are in fact drinking it. By simply seeing if the bottles are empty, or if you can't be there in person, by placing a quick phone call, you can have the peace of mind of knowing that your friend or family member is drinking enough water and other healthy beverages.
Additional Ways to Help with Staying Hydrated
Another important point to remember is that coffee, tea, fruit juices, fruits, and vegetables all contain water. Perhaps you can make it a habit to offer the elderly person some watermelon slices or celery sticks every afternoon to contribute to their water intake. Every little bit helps, so consider bringing them a coffee in the evening and use the time to sit and talk with them. Or, enjoy a glass of apple juice with the elderly person as you spend a few minutes telling them about your day.
We all want what is best for our elderly loved ones! Hydration is definitely a priority, so make sure they drink up! For more information on the importance of hydration, contact us today!