Summer is full of warm weather and countless outdoor activities. As the temperatures rise, however, so does the risk for dehydration. People of all ages are at risk for dehydration, but this risk becomes even more significant with age.
Even though staying hydrated is essential for older adults, it can often be overlooked. HarborChase Senior Living wants to share some information on the importance of hydration, and how you can stay healthy and hydrated all summer (and year) long!
Why Are Older Adults at Greater Risk for Dehydration?
Due to natural, physiological changes in the body that come with age, older adults are more vulnerable to dehydration. As we age, the feeling of thirst declines, meaning that older adults may not feel thirsty. Because of this, thirst cannot necessarily be relied upon to ensure that you are hydrated. Often, by the time an individual does feel thirsty, it could already indicate that he or she is slightly dehydrated.
Other age-related risk factors can also lead to the prevalence of dehydration in older adults. Those living with dementia or other cognitive impairments may be at a higher risk of dehydration as there might be changes in functional abilities such as swallowing or mobility. Also, certain medications such as diuretics or laxatives may exacerbate the likelihood of dehydration.
Whatever the reason or cause, dehydration can be a serious risk to older adults, increasing the importance of staying hydrated.
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
Knowing the signs and symptoms of dehydration can be crucial in keeping hydrated and healthy, especially since thirst is not always reliable. Dehydration is more common in warm weather as our bodies sweat to cool off, increasing the loss of fluid in the body. However, dehydration can occur at any time.
Knowing the initial signs of dehydration can help you properly hydrate and take care of yourself before the symptoms worsen. Initial warning signs of dehydration could include:
- Dry mouth
- Feeling tired or weak
- Muscle cramps
If left untreated, severe dehydration can lead to hospitalization. Signs of extreme dehydration can include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Disorientation or confusion
Closely monitor your symptoms if you think you may be dehydrated. If your symptoms continue to worsen or don’t get better after drinking water, seek medical attention.
How Older Adults Can Stay Hydrated
There are several ways individuals can reduce the risk of dehydration. An important first step is recognizing that because you may be more vulnerable to dehydration, it’s necessary to stay conscious and mindful throughout the day that you’re taking in fluids. There are several strategies to do this, and there are more ways than just drinking water!
Set a Reminder to Drink
While recommended daily liquid intake varies among people, a reasonable consensus is that older adults should aim for 55-65 ounces of fluid a day. Consult with your physician about a daily goal for yourself, then set reminders on your smartphone or kitchen timer to make sure that you don’t forget. There are even a variety of smart device apps that can provide reminders and help users track their intake throughout the day and monitor intake progress, making it a more engaging experience.
Taking small sips of water at intervals throughout the day can ensure that you’re getting your daily intake of fluids without over drinking or getting sick.
Eat Foods with a High Water Content
Increasing your fluid intake doesn’t always have to include drinking water. There are plenty of foods and drinks that have high water content and can aid in proper hydration. If drinking water is not ideal for you, try incorporating these water-rich foods into your diet.
- Watermelon (perfect for summertime!)
- Various soups and broths.
Not only will these foods keep you hydrated, but they’ll also keep you nourished and satisfied!
Try Water Enhancers
If you don’t enjoy the taste of water itself, try mixing it up! Adding fresh fruit or herbs, like lemon or mint, is a great way to make water refreshing and enjoyable. You can also try different low-sugar flavor packets or electrolyte mixes to make drinking more pleasing. Other drinks, like coconut water or aloe juice, can be a tasty source of hydration and other nutrients.
As temperatures rise this summer, the importance of staying hydrated is essential for everyone, but especially for those older adults who are at higher risk. By understanding the warning signs of dehydration and following these helpful strategies for staying hydrated, you can enjoy a healthy and hydrated summer!