One of the more important, and often most overlooked health issues for seniors is dehydration. Too frequently, people who are at an advanced age are not properly hydrated, which happens for a variety of reasons. One reason is that, as we age, our bodies are less likely to feel thirst, so we just don’t think to have fluids when we need them. Additionally, certain lifestyle and habit changes can easily lead to dehydration.
No matter what age you are, proper hydration Is important and affects many biological functions within your body. For example, drinking plenty of water is how we eliminate toxins that enter the body through the air we breathe in the food we eat. Water is also good for digestion Because it helps breakdown food and facilitates the absorption of nutrients in the digestive tract. Plus, being properly hydrated is essential for certain medications to be effective.
When people are chronically dehydrated, especially for long periods of time, it can cause severe health issues such as urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and even kidney failure. In some cases, severe dehydration can lead to seizures due to a lack of the electrolytes that help carry electrical signals between cells in the nervous system.
Another concern with dehydration, especially for seniors, is that it can cause low blood volume. This may result in a substantial drop in blood pressure, which in turn reduces the amount of oxygen being delivered to your cells throughout the body. In extreme cases, low blood volume can even be life-threatening.
Why seniors are so vulnerable to dehydration
Among the many changes that take place in our bodies as we age, older adults have a reduced volume of water in their bodies naturally. This causes your body’s fluid reserve to get smaller, reducing your ability to conserve water. At the same time, your ability to sense thirst is also diminished, which means you drink less.
For many seniors, taking prescribed medications that increase the risk of dehydration is also a factor. That includes such prescriptions as the antidepressant amitriptyline, as well as over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen.
Finally, because aging takes a toll on your immune system, seniors are more prone to get sick and if an illness brings on excessive sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea, you can easily become dehydrated. Diabetes is another primary cause of dehydration in older adults.
Tips to help you stay hydrated
While it may sound like a simple problem to solve, keeping properly hydrated for seniors can be a challenge. These tips will help you stay on track.
Get your fluids from a variety of sources
Drinking nothing but water all day every day will eventually get pretty boring. So, keep in mind that there are a lot of types of healthy fluids you can enjoy. And it doesn’t just have to be something you drink. Fresh fruits and vegetables also contain plenty of healthy water. Even sweetened drinks, coffee, and tea can help hydrate you but it’s important to drink them in moderation. Excessive consumption of caffeine, which is a diuretic, can make your dehydration worse. You should also avoid consuming too much sugar or drinking alcohol to excess.
Focus on convenience
As much as possible, make sure drinking water is easy. Always keep a full pitcher and drinking cup nearby, such as on a table next to your favorite chair. In other words, try to remove any reasons not to drink water. Often, simply getting up and walking to the kitchen Is enough of an inconvenience to put it off until later, which may never come.
Try beverages at different temperatures
If you’re a caregiver to a senior, this may take a little trial and error. Beverages don’t always have to be ice cold. You may find that your senior prefers to drink water at room temperature. He or she may even prefer a hot cup of decaf coffee or tea. And those preferences may change depending on the time of day. To guide you, pay attention to the circumstances when your senior seems to drink everything you give them and when they don’t.
No matter how you accomplish it, the important thing is to make sure seniors are getting several glasses of water or healthy fluids per day. This will generally prevent several health issues from becoming a problem. Plus, you’ll simply feel better throughout the day.