Proper hydration is important for everyone at every age. Awareness of the need for water has increased over the last five years and has caused a surge in the sales of reusable water containers — an industry expected to reach $10.19 billion by 2024.
You see people in the gym, the grocery store, in the mall, and on the street toting around jugs of water these days. But seniors seem to have missed the memo, and that’s a potential problem.
Dr. Sameer Ohri, a respected family practitioner in Corona, California, compassionately cares for the senior citizens in his community. He knows the unique challenges they face and the chronic conditions that may require special attention.
Senior care is an important part of our practice, and our expert medical team loves working with aging adults. In addition to the more serious conditions seniors may encounter, dehydration is one of the lesser known culprits for medical issues. Here are some things Dr. Sameer likes senior patients to know about water intake.
How is hydration different for seniors?
As we age, all of our body parts and systems tend to slow and lose some of their functionality. There are several issues that may affect proper hydration in aging adults.
Decreased thirst signals
Put simply, seniors just don’t realize they’re thirsty even when their bodies are dehydrated. The process of aging changes certain physiological control systems connected with the sensations of thirst and satiety. By the time they feel thirsty, they are likely already dehydrated.
Incontinence makes them hesitate
Incontinence can be an embarrassing issue and a hassle to deal with. Knowing that more water only exacerbates the problem may make some seniors hesitant to guzzle down a full glass of water.
Whether it’s Alzeimer’s, dementia, or simple memory loss, some seniors just don’t remember to grab a glass of water with their meal or after doing chores or taking a walk.
Younger people take for granted the simple bodily functions, like walking, speaking, and eating. Often, these daily activities become difficult for the elderly. When swallowing becomes a challenge, drinking water becomes less of a priority.
Certain medications can cause dehydration in adults, especially diuretics, which are common in the cases of heart failure and high blood pressure.
Any illness, disease, or medical condition that includes fever, infection, diarrhea, or vomiting puts seniors at a higher risk for dehydration.
How to recognize the signs of dehydration in seniors
Since the natural sensation that triggers thirst may be diminished, you or your loved one may not know that dehydration is looming or already present. Here are some common signs of dehydration:
- Dry mouth
- High blood pressure
- High heart rate
- Infrequent urination
- Dark yellow urine
- Sunken eyes
- Muscle cramps
How dangerous is dehydration in seniors?
In most cases, the symptoms mentioned above are the only ones you’ll need to contend with. But left untreated, you could face more serious consequences, such as:
- Falls due to weakness
- Kidney stones
- Kidney failure
- Loss of cognitive skills
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
How to help seniors stay hydrated
It’s recommended that elderly adults should drink about 1.7 liters (a little over 7 cups) of water every 24 hours. If you have a loved one who may not be drinking enough water, here are a few tips to help you keep things flowing:
- Don’t force it; encourage them to sip throughout the day rather than gulping large quantities.
- Flavor it so they enjoy it.
- Jot it down; a diary or log can help you keep track
- Increase quantity and frequency when it’s hot or they are ill.
- Offer a straw
If you’re a senior or have a loved one who is a senior, consider scheduling an appointment with Dr. Ohri right away. He can set your mind at ease with a routine senior exam or run diagnostic tests if you feel something’s wrong. Either way, he can partner with you on the senior journey. Call us today or book an appointment online.