Seniors Guide to Stay Hydrated
June 28, 2018
Summer is now upon us in Charlotte, NC and with that comes the heat and humidity that the Carolina’s are known for. One of our biggest concerns as health care providers for seniors during this time of year is dehydration.
So what are some of the contributing factors that lead to dehydration in our senior population? Some are very obvious such as excessive sweating and a lack of water intake. Other factors we know about, but are often overlooked. Such as, a loss of blood through cuts, bruises or other injuries. Medications like diuretics and blood thinners can contribute to fluid loss. A decrease in kidney function is another factor that is common but also overlooked when it comes to the aging process and dehydration.
Now that we know some of the cause and contributing factors of dehydration in seniors. Let’s look at some of the signs and symptoms that we may notice in a senior who is dehydrated:
- Dry mouth and tongue and/or thick saliva
- Inability to urinate or only able to urinate a small amount
- Dark yellowish color in urine
- Headaches, body weakness and muscle fatigue
- Muscle cramps
- Low blood pressure
- Low but rapid heartrate & breathing faster than normal
- If a person has stopped sweating
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
So now knowing what contributes to dehydration, and what symptoms are exhibited by a senior suffering from dehydration. How do we combat dehydration? The answer is simple right? “Drink more water.” Perfect!!! However, this is not as easy as it seems. We have to have water readily available. Here at Brightmore of South Charlotte, we have several water fountains located throughout the facility. Our dinning staff provides hydration stations in the lobbies of both our Independent living and our Assisted Living/Memory Support facilities. We also encourage them to take water with them on outings and their walks around our campus.
Teaching them to listen to their bodies warning signals is another great way to combat dehydration. For example, if you begin to feel thirsty or you have a dry sensation in your mouth, that is one of our body’s first warning signs of that you need to start re-hydrating. If you notice that your urine is starting to develop a darker yellowish tint to it. That is another very telling sign of dehydration. Some of the more severe signs is when your body stops sweating while you are still physically active. Muscle cramps and muscular fatigue are painful and obvious signs. Whenever these signs arrive we have to take action and begin to re-hydrate so that we avoid a serious medical emergency.
As caregivers, we also need to educate our seniors on the times throughout the day that they need to be rehydrating. Drinking water to start the morning and around an hour before bed is a great idea. Some of us sweat and have to visit the bathroom throughout the night when we sleep and don’t realize how much water our bodies have lost. Plus, if you sleep for 8 hours, that’s 1/3 of your day that you have had not water intake. In our Wellness classes here at Brightmore, we encourage our residents to drink water before, during and after exercise. Finally, drinking a glass of water at every meal is another great opportunity to supplement their water intake.
All this talk so far about water, but what if a person just don’t like to drink water? Try adding some flavor to it. Cut pieces of fruit, cucumber, lemons or limes can add flavor to water without compromising its nutritional value. If that doesn’t work for you, there are a variety of flavor packs to choose from, that contain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. You can find these at your local grocery store. However, before trying these, make sure you read the nutrition fact labels and ask your doctor if these are a safe alternative for you.
Whether you work at a senior living facility, are a caregiver, or have a family member who is a senior, we have to make a conscious effort to make sure they are staying hydrated. We can greatly reduce the risk of dehydration in our senior population by making sure that water is readily available for them. Also, by letting them know what times of the day that they need to be drinking water. We also need to reiterate to them to listen to their bodies warning signals and to take action to re-hydrate when they notice these signals. By taking these steps to stay hydrated, this will allow you and your loved ones to have a safe and healthy summer.