After being stuck inside all winter we are all itching to get outdoors, but we could be at risk for dehydration with the weather getting warmer. The risk of dehydration can be higher for seniors due to the physiological changes during the aging process. Therefore, it’s important to know what causes dehydration, tips for keeping the body hydrated, the signs of dehydration, and what to do when you detect signs of dehydration in yourself or a loved one.
Causes of Dehydration
- Prolonged exposure to high temperatures: If seniors spend a lot of time in hot or humid conditions, they can lose a lot of water through sweating.
- Complex health issues: There are several underlying conditions that can cause older adults to lose a lot of fluids including kidney disease and diabetes.
- Some types of medications: Seniors who take medication for high blood pressure may experience increased urination which can lead to an increased risk of dehydration.
- Cognitive impairment: Individuals suffering from various forms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can also forget to take fluids.
Signs That Indicate Dehydration
When caring for a senior, you should recognize signs of dehydration early on. Prolonged dehydration can affect how bodies regulate temperature, digests food, maintain blood pressure, and eliminate waste, leading to more complicated issues. Here are the signs you should look out for:
- Dry mouth: One common sign of dehydration is cracked lips. Make sure you give the senior more fluids if you spot this sign unless restricted by the doctor.
- Dizziness: Severe dehydration can lead to dizziness and feeling faint.
- Changes in urinary behavior: Lack of enough fluids in the body can make your urine darker in color and reduce the times you visit the washroom.
- Disorientation or confusion: Dehydration in seniors, especially those with underlying conditions, can make them confused. You need to call your doctor if this happens.
- Cramping of muscles: Reduced fluids in the body can lower the metabolism rate, leading to slow utilization of proteins (muscle-building components) leading to cramping.
- Headaches: Although many things can cause headaches, don’t be surprised when a senior’s headache is due to dehydration.
- Constipation: This may not be apparent as the rest of the signs, but chronic constipation is a sign of mild dehydration.
Ways to Ensure that Seniors Stay Hydrated
- Please encourage them to take a small amount of fluid throughout the day. Give them water bottles with goal markers of when to drink water.
- Add fruit to their drinking water to make it more interesting.
- Give them foods with high water content such as fruit.
- Discourage older adults from taking alcohol, coffee, and high-protein drinks, since they have a diuretic effect. They cause and acceleration dehydration.
- Make sure that they don’t spend a long time in the heat.
- Create a hydration chart for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s or remind them when they should take fluids.
What to Do Once You Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration?
If you detect dehydration in mild cases, you can correct the situation by giving seniors more fluids. However, if the dehydration is severe make sure you consult a qualified doctor. In extreme cases, the senior citizen will be given electrolytes and fluids intravenously.