How to Be a Heavy Drinker: Hydration for Seniors
What puts seniors at greater risk for dehydration? First, is that the ability to feel thirst lessens with age; seniors may not realize when they need to drink more.†
As I write this article, we are not experiencing particularly warm weather in Iowa. Itís 64 degrees in June but as soon as I blink itíll be 101. Hot weather brings up the topic for this monthís informational article. However, hydration is not the only concern for seniors when the weather is warm.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to dehydration. Some of them include diarrhea, vomiting, overheating, diabetes, diuretic medications, high fever and excessive sweating. If you experience any of these, be aware and make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids.
You may ask yourself: What is hydration? Well, it refers to a personís body water balance. Dehydration, which is the real problem, occurs when people donít have enough fluid in their bodies. Many seniors have problems with hydration. Dehydration is both a serious problem and easy to prevent. If not treated it could result in death.
What puts seniors at greater risk for dehydration? First, is that the ability to feel thirst lessens with age; seniors may not realize when they need to drink more. They may also be using the bathroom more frequently which means they are losing more fluid. Another factor is that as we age we lose muscle and gain fat. Muscle holds water, fat does not. As we age the amount of water in the body decreases. In addition, medications that increase urination or help with constipation can also put seniors at risk for dehydration.
So what should you look for in order to know if you are dehydrated? Symptoms include thirst, dry mouth, dark yellow urine, fatigue and irritability. If it progresses to dizziness, blackouts when sitting up or standing, confusion, muscle weakness or cramping, sunken eyes, low blood pressure or increased heart rate you need to go to the ER or contact your doctor immediately: these are life threatening symptoms.
If youíre not a big fan of dehydration there are steps you can take to be proactive: donít wait until youíre thirsty to drink, by this time youíre already experiencing dehydration.
Try carrying a water bottle with you so you can take drinks frequently, aim for a minimum of eight cups of water each day. When the temperature rises, increase your fluid intake, too. This will help replenish what is lost when we sweat. We should all start and end the day with a cup of water. Do not substitute alcohol or caffeinated drinks for water. Last but not least, know the signs and symptoms of dehydration so that you can take action immediately.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristen Sheston is the Assistant Administrator at The Continental at St. Josephís, the leading assisted living community in southern Iowa, located in Centerville.