The following information will educate you about the seriousness of dehydration in the elderly, how to recognize its signs and symptoms, and tips on how to keep elderly relatives properly hydrated when the weather heats up.
The Importance of Hydration in the Elderly Population
The bottom line: every single cell, tissue, and organ needs water in order to function properly. Usually, when we feel thirsty, dehydration has already begun. However, as we age, our brain doesn’t always send the necessary “signal” to our body that it needs water. Ideally, adults need six to eight, eight ounce glasses of water everyday. This can differ between individuals.
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration in the Elderly
Signs and symptoms of dehydration run from the mild to the severe.
Mild symptoms of dehydration:
- A feeling of thirst or hunger. Sometimes our bodies signal that we are hungry when we are actually dehydrated. Fruits and vegetables that have a high water content can satisfy both urges. Keep sliced melon, oranges, apples, cucumbers and carrots handy for quick healthy and hydrating snacks.
- Dry or sticky mouth.
- Thick or gummy saliva
- Smaller quantities of urine
- Darker colored urine, it might even have a brown tinge
- Muscle cramping
More severe symptoms of dehydration:
If a loved one experiences any of the following symptoms, you should have them transported to a hospital, or their primary care doctor, immediately. Severe dehydration can become fatal and usually requires intravenous fluids to get fluid levels back in balance.
- Low blood pressure
- Severe cramping that can result in hyper-contracted leg, back, and stomach contractions
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Sunken eyes
- Dry eyes
- Flaccid skin
- Rapid breathing
Tips for the Elderly Staying Hydrated
Besides the obvious, hydration is also beneficial for other reasons. When the elderly are hydrated they are less constipated, suffer fewer falls, and also have a lower chance of developing colorectal cancer.
If your loved one suffers from dementia, Alzheimer’s or a generally “foggy brain” it might be necessary to hire a caregiver to ensure they are taking their medications, eating, and getting enough liquids. They may have to be physically reminded to drink. Otherwise, the following tips can help them remember to drink enough water.
- Keep a glass of water on the nightstand and on the end-table so it’s in sight. This can help them to remember to drink it.
- Buy a large, marked container with a straw. This can help them to keep track of how many ounces they drink a day. For example, a 16 ounce container should be emptied approximately three times throughout the day.
- Buy a variety of liquids. Although water is the best, lowest calorie, and healthiest liquid to drink, drinking liquids is the priority here. Make sure there are a variety of juices, flavored teas, etc. so they are more inclined to drink.
- Try adding a squeeze of lemon or fresh cucumber slices to a glass of water to enhance the flavor.
- Set a timer to go off each hour. If they haven’t had anything to drink, they should take some sips.
- Use a straw. This often causes people to drink more water than they do if they sip from the rim of the glass.
Hydration is important everyday, but especially when the temperatures go up. Keep a close eye on your loved ones to make sure they stay hydrated and healthy.