In Sherman Oaks and elsewhere around the country, people will be observing National Water Quality Month in August as well as World Water Week during the week of August 20th through the 24th. The purpose of designating these two days for special attention is to bring awareness to those who may not have access to a healthy water supply and to ensure that those who do, take advantage of the fact to drink enough and stay hydrated. This would be a good time to observe your senior loved one for a few days to make sure they’re getting an adequate supply of fresh drinking water. If you’re an in-home care provider, you should do the same thing, so as to ensure that your charge remains healthy and happy. Seniors in particular are more susceptible to dehydration than other age groups, and the consequences can be dramatically bad. While it is usually possible to recover quickly from a mild case of dehydration, when a senior becomes severely dehydrated, it can cause damage that cannot be repaired. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the repercussions of not drinking enough fresh water, and what should be done to prevent such situations.
Severe case dehydration
There are some events that can occur in the life of a senior that will exacerbate any kind of existing dehydration situation. In these situations, the body’s water supply is quickly depleted, to achieve rapid dehydration where a number of other problems will also become apparent. One of the things that can cause your senior loved one to be dehydrated very quickly is a bout of either diarrhea or vomiting. When either of these two conditions occurs, a large supply of body fluids is quickly lost, and along with it, a huge number of the body’s stores of minerals and electrolytes. Losing these minerals and electrolytes will make all dehydration symptoms much worse afterward, so it’s important to replenish the water supply after any bout of diarrhea or vomiting.
Another thing that can quickly dehydrate a senior is when they have a fever. The higher the fever is, the faster the senior person will become dehydrated. Of course, your doctor will recommend the best course of action to control the fever itself, and as soon as the fever breaks, it will be necessary to slowly begin restoring liquids. While most seniors don’t have a problem with excessive sweating, it’s entirely possible to become dehydrated by standing out in the hot sun for long periods, or by moderate exertion in warm weather.
In conditions like these, it’s always a good idea to replace fluids periodically, rather than waiting until the end of the task has been achieved. It’s a much better course of action to occasionally drink some water so that severe dehydration can be avoided and all the unpleasant symptoms that go with it. It’s also possible to become dehydrated through increased urination. One way that your senior loved one might be steadily losing body fluids is by having diabetes that has not yet been diagnosed or is not being managed through medication. This can cause a senior to pass more urine than they normally should, and it can quickly deplete the water supply. Here are some of the most common signs that dehydration has occurred:
- urine becomes dark-colored
- not urinating very frequently
- disorientation or confusion
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- unexplained fatigue or tiredness
- the mouth becomes dry and sticky
- very few tears or no tears at all
- the person feels a thirst with cannot be quenched.
How dehydration affects seniors
There are a number of ways that dehydration can impact a senior citizen or anyone else for that matter. The first thing that a dehydrated person will notice is a feeling of thirst. This can affect seniors more than others because the body’s thirst signal diminishes during the aging process, so a senior may not even realize that they need water, because they don’t feel the usual thirsty feeling. If you only drink when you actually feel thirsty, you’ll probably be drinking much less than your body actually needs as a senior, simply because the signal is not nearly as strong in older adults.
Another impact that dehydration can have on seniors is that it may affect body function, for instance, all the activities related to your kidneys. Generally speaking, your kidneys are not nearly as effective in older age, and that can cause a fluid imbalance in the body. Given that the body has less water composition during later years, it’s possible to become dehydrated much faster than at a younger age. Some seniors take a number of medications, and some of those are actually diuretics which cause you to eliminate more fluids from the body.
It’s also possible to have two or more medications combined to act as a diuretic, and this can cause the same problems. This will be a little harder to detect, because there usually isn’t a warning on the label about a particular medication being a diuretic, since it only becomes a diuretic when taken with something else. It’s also very possible for a senior to become quickly dehydrated if they are a victim of dementia or Alzheimer’s. This happens because seniors who have some type of cognitive impairment may not think about or remember to drink fluids as often as they need to. Even if the body is sending out thirst signals, if a senior has decreased cognitive ability, it may very well be that the brain dismisses the thirst signals or doesn’t interpret them correctly.
Tips for seniors to keep hydrated
Given that seniors are more prone to become hydrated than other age groups, and have a less pronounced sense of thirst, it becomes very important for them to stay hydrated. Here are some tips on how to do that:
- Keep water with you – try to remember to keep a water bottle with you almost everywhere you go, so you have a ready supply
- Consume less alcohol – alcohol is a diuretic that encourages the elimination of fluids from the body, so either avoid it or diminish your intake of it
- Prevent boredom with drinking water – drinking plain water can be rather boring, so spice it up by adding some fruit or juice that enhances the flavor
- Choose high-water content foods – some foods like fruits are high in water content, and you should include more of these in your diet
- Establish a hydration routine – if you establish a routine that includes regular hydration, it will become part of your daily activities, and you won’t be obliged to try and remember it.