Summer Hydration Tips for Seniors
Many of us look forward to the summer months. After the long winter, we all look forward to spending more time with our families outdoors. This is really a great time of year, but as temperatures rise, the risk of dehydration rises with it for all of us, but especially among the elderly.
As we age, our bodies aren’t able to conserve water as well as those who are younger. This makes it difficult to adapt to fluctuating temperatures. Compounding the risk of dehydration is that our sense of thirst diminishes with age. This means that by the time an elderly person actually feels thirsty, their essential fluids may already be extremely low.
Another risk factor for dehydration is that certain medications and medical conditions can affect a senior’s ability to retain fluids. Diuretics, antihistamines, laxatives, antipsychotics and corticosteroids can cause frequent urination that depletes water and electrolytes. Individuals with memory impairment may forget to eat and drink, and some may even have difficulty swallowing. Some seniors who know they are incontinent may deliberately refuse or limit fluid intake to avoid accidents.
If you are a caregiver for an elderly person, look for the following symptoms of dehydration:
- Little or no urination
- Dark or amber colored urine
- Dry skin that stays folded when pinched
- Irritability, dizziness or confusion
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid breathing or heartbeat
- Weak pulse
- Cold hands and feet
How to prevent dehydration:
For most of us, drinking plenty of fluids and eating foods with high water content is a great way to keep our bodies properly hydrated in warmer weather. Most adults need about 64 ounces of fluid every day, but that amount increases with heat and humidity and can change based on various medications and health conditions.
A good rule of thumb is to try balancing fluid intake with output. If a senior is sweating or urinating more frequently, then their fluid intake should become more frequent as well. If a loved one is suffering from an illness that causes fever, diarrhea or vomiting, carefully monitoring fluid intake is crucial.
We encourage you to spend time with your elderly loved ones this season, just remember: Hydration is key to a safe, enjoyable summer!