Summertime, and the living is easy… But the easy pleasures of summer can also increase the danger of dehydration, particularly in the senior population. In fact, according to the Health Care Financing Administration, dehydration is one of the ten most frequent causes of hospitalization for Medicare recipients.
Why are seniors more susceptible to dehydration?
- They don’t feel thirsty. As we age, our sense of being thirsty decreases. And if the senior has difficulty walking, they may be less likely to get up and get a drink when they do feel thirsty.
- They take more medications, some of which may be dehydrating. American seniors have, on average, at least two chronic conditions for which they take medication. Some of these medications are diuretic, meaning that they are dehydrating. Others cause sweating, which can also lead to dehydration.
- The kidneys, which regulate fluid retention and excretion, start to weaken at around age 50, and the decline becomes even more acute after age 70. This means that, in seniors, the kidneys are less able to maintain the proper fluid levels in the body.
3 Tips for avoiding dehydration
- Start small. Seniors don’t need the classic eight-cups-a-day. In fact, it’s better for them to be taking frequent sips of water, rather than a full glass at a time. Taking small sips, rather than gulping down a full glass of liquid, also reduces the risk of choking.
Taking smaller, more frequent drinks is also good advice for seniors with mobility issues, who might be reluctant to drink enough water because they fear they will not get to a restroom in time.
- Make it easy. Because of their decreased sense of thirst, seniors should be encouraged to keep a drink near them at all times, and to make it a habit to drink regularly, even if they’re not thirsty. In fact, thirst is a sign that the process of dehydration has already begun.
Those with swallowing problems can use specially-made straws that allow for easy drinking. These straws have valves that prevent the drink from returning to the cup, reducing the effort required to take a sip.
- Eat water. Hydration is not just a matter of drinking. Many foods — fruits and vegetables in particular — contain large amounts of water. Eating a salad or a soup can go a long way toward keeping a senior hydrated.
Dehydration can be deadly. If a senior in your life has difficulty maintaining their hydration, it may be wise for them to live in a facility with a hydration program. Call Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ, at 609-588-5800, or by clicking here to find out how to ensure the hydration — and health — of your loved one.