We all know the importance of drinking enough water to stay healthy and hydrated. The human body is about two-thirds water. But the fact is that regardless of this knowledge, most people still don’t drink the amount of water they need. And when that person is a senior, the lack of water can result in much worse side effects–even hospitalization. One of the top ten most frequent admitting diagnoses for medicare patients is dehydration. Dehydration occurs when you lose or use more fluid than you take in. It results in your body not having enough water to perform its regular functions. In severe cases, dehydration can be life-threatening.
Some of the most common indicators of dehydration are: confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, a dry mouth, labored speech, sunken eyeballs, loss of muscle tone, weight loss, a slow metabolism, increased toxicity, organ failure, and urinary tract infections.
If you are feeling thirsty, it probably means you have already lost around 2-3% of your body’s water. Mental performance and physical condition start to become impaired before thirst kicks in which is typically around 1% dehydration. Even the smallest bit makes a big difference.
The good news is that dehydration is preventable. While the amount of water an adult needs each day varies according to weight and individual body needs, the average person requires about six to eight cups of water a day. Here are some simple steps you can take to help yourself or your loved one stay hydrated all year round:
- Identify medication that may cause loss of fluids. Check the information sheets that accompany any prescriptions and talk to your physician. Remember to drink more water when using certain over the counter medications, such as stool softeners or laxatives. Many blood pressure medications are diuretics, so you will need to increase your fluid intake to maintain health while taking them.
- Consume foods that are rich in fluid. While water is the best source of hydration, there are many other ways to boost fluid intake rather than just by drinking glasses of water. Add soups, fresh fruits and vegetables, or ice pops to your meals for quick and easy ways to get more fluid. A great choice for tasty summer hydration is watermelon, for instance.
- Limit dehydrating beverages. Gradually cut back on serving sizes of dehydrating beverages such as coffee, tea, alcohol and caffeinated sodas. Replace them with hydrating beverages including milk, sports drinks, seltzers, herbal teas and 100% fruit juices.
- Have water available throughout the day for frequent sips. It is often hard for many seniors to drink a large glass of water in one sitting. Encourage frequent sipping by having fresh water available by their favorite chair throughout the day and at their bedside during the evening.
- Monitor body signs. Body weight is a good way to keep track of hydration levels. Encourage your loved one to step on the bathroom scale each morning. If she has lost two pounds or more from the day before and has a headache, chances are good she is dehydrated. Mild dehydration involves losing 2 percent of your body weight. Severe dehydration involves a 4 percent or greater loss. Also encourage your family member to check their urine color on a regular basis. A well hydrated person’s urine should be light or clear in color. Dark urine color and/or infrequency of urination are signs of dehydration.
- Be creative. Some seniors will refuse to drink more fluids, explaining that they are not thirsty. Here are a few creative options to try rather than just saying, “Have another glass of water”:
- Offer lemonade and talk about the lemonade stand you had when you were a child.
- Serve fruit popsicles or Jell-O as a snack
- Bring watermelon slices, grapes or fresh berries along with you when you visit.
- Add slices of lemon or orange to a pitcher of water to add to its taste.
- Encourage your loved one to eat half a grapefruit or a slice of melon for breakfast.
- Salads contain high water content. Some good choices to include are: cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage, celery and iceberg lettuce.
For more senior health tips, check out our other posts or call us today at (801) 292-0296.
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