Dehydration in Seniors

Dehydration is never good for anyone, but especially not good for those who are already in a more vulnerable state. Water is key player to survival. Business Insider has recorded that a human can go without food for about three weeks but they only last a few days without water.

Water is how large reason as to why our bodies function the way they do. It helps with water regulation, waste elimination, joint lubrication, delivery of nutrients to cells, blood oxygen circulation, skin hydration, cognitive function. But when your body becomes dehydrated a lot of these things don’t happen the way they should be.

Maintaining the right amount of water is a tricky thing because some people don’t need to consume as much water as other people. Different body types hold onto water for longer periods of time than others. The recommended amount of water is eight glasses a day but for some it may need to be 12 and for others it might be six. It really depends on person and what they’re living habits are and how they’re body holds onto liquid.

When you lose water, you also lose salt and electrolytes. Electrolytes are electrically charged nutrients that are essential for regular heartbeats, muscle contractions as well as some other things. Losing electrolytes can cause sever health consequences: fatigue, memory problems, poor concentration, irritability, headache, low blood pressure, dizziness, skin problems, constipation, and kidney problems and increases chances of getting reoccurring urinary tract infections. If any of these are left untreated it could lead to even worse situations such as having a seizure, going into shock, kidney failure and heat related injuries like heat stroke.

Dehydration is more common is seniors because maintaining a healthy balance of water and electrolytes becomes more complex than it is for younger people. According to Frontiers in Molecular Bio-sciences dehydration is one of the top reasons for seniors to end up in the hospital. Dehydration can also be the reason for longer hospital stays in the more intensive care units. There are a few risk factors that come into play when seniors are experiencing dehydration: age related physical changes, medication side effects, fear of falling, living conditions and medical issues.

Age related changes are the changes such as kidney becoming less efficient, bowels not working as well as they used to, over sweating or not sweating enough, weakened sense of thirst or issues with swallowing. These changes unfortunately are unpreventable but can be compensated with staying on top of drinking water and consuming the right amount of electrolytes for your body. Seniors can’t always tell when they are thirsty and can often become dehydrated before they realize there’s a problem. But creating a schedule for drinking water you can decrease the chances of dehydration.

Side Effects of Medications

Side effects of certain medications can cause someone to become dehydrated and if that is the case you should consult your doctor about either changes medications or finding ways to combat the dehydration.

The fear of falling is an issue for seniors when it comes to worrying about needing to get up in the night to use the washroom and then falling. So seniors will resist drinking water in order to try and avoid the need to pee in the night. While it is a good idea to not drink water right before you go to bed you shouldn’t restrict all fluids after supper. You should speak with your doctor about finding the right time to stop drinking water for the night so you can stay hydrated but won’t need to pee.  

Medical conditions like, fever, diarrhea, diabetes and consistent loss of fluid can all lead to dehydration. Keep an eye on your medication conditions and how they are affecting your hydration.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs of dehydration vary pending on the person. But a few key ones are:

  • cracked lips
  • dry mouth
  • dry skin
  • less urination than normal or discoloured
  • strong smelling urination
  • dizziness
  • increased heart rate
  • crying without tears
  • confusion
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • fainting

It’s important to keep an eye on all possible signs of dehydration and act accordingly. If someone is dehydrated, giving them water is vital. They shouldn’t chug the water but instead take small sips over a short period of time, If it is a more severe case of dehydration and the skin is starting to get hot to touch and conciseness is being effected then you should get them to drink more water more quickly, put them in a cool place, add cold wet towel and call 911.

Staying Proactive

There are few proactive ways people can prevent dehydration in the elderly in particular. Being away of the risks and warning signs is a great start. The next way is to consult a doctor and discuss the possible for factors for dehydration and how much water will counter act them. Because like mentioned before eight cups is a general guideline but some people may require more and others may require less. So having that conversation with a doctor will help determine you best fit.

It’s also good to remember that not all fluids come in a glass. Fruits and vegetables and soups can also contribute to your daily intake. If you’re someone who may not enjoy drinking water then find some fruits that are high in water and eat more of it.

A big player of setting yourself up for success when it comes to drinking enough water is by keeping your drinks nearby and visible and maybe sticking little reminders throughout the house that tell you to go drink your water. Give yourself as much help as possible to ensure you will stay on track.

Being aware of the risks and education surrounding dehydration is step one. Now it’s time to put your knowledge into action and create strategies for you to stay on track and stay hydrated.