Dehydration in Seniors: Tips on Staying Hydrated When the Summer Comes
Now that summer is right around the corner, more seniors than ever are faced with the dangers of dehydration. Seniors are generally more susceptible to dehydration than younger adults. While any senior can suffer from dehydration at any time of year, it is more common during the summer months when the weather is warm and seniors are more likely to sweat and overheat.
Here is what every senior and their caregiver should know about dehydration.
What is Dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when an individual loses more water than they are able to take in. Water allows the body to regulate its temperature through sweat, maintain proper blood pressure and eliminate waste effectively.
While dehydration can be mild in some cases—in more severe situations it can lead to confusion, weakness, pneumonia, bedsores, fainting, UTIs and even death.
What Causes Dehydration in Seniors?
Seniors are more prone to dehydration than younger adults for a number of different reasons. Here are a few of the many things that make seniors more prone to dehydration.
- Medications- Many seniors are on several medications when they reach a certain age. Some medications may cause seniors to sweat more than usual or to become dehydrated. Some medications also act as a diuretic.
- Lack of Thirst- As people age, their sense of thirst becomes less acute. Many seniors don’t realize when they are thirsty and some seniors may be too frail to get up and get water for themselves.
- Illness- Certain illnesses such as vomiting or diarrhea can quickly cause elderly individuals to be dehydrated.
- Decreased Kidney Functions- Part of the aging process for many adults includes losing kidney function. This makes it more difficult for seniors to conserve fluid. This decreased kidney function typically starts around age 50 and becomes noticeable when seniors are in their 70s.
How Can Seniors Prevent Dehydration?
There is an old myth that everyone needs to drink eight glasses of water per day. However, not everyone needs the same amount of water every day in order to stay hydrated. A person’s diet, their weight, their medications, their activity level, what they are putting in their body and even their environment can all impact a person’s likelihood to becoming more or less hydrated.
So, even seniors who are drinking eight glasses of water every day may not be enough—everyone has a different normal level of hydration. This is why it is important to not only drink water regularly throughout the day, but to be aware of the signs of elderly dehydration.
What Are the Signs of Dehydration?
These are some of the most common signs of dehydration:
- Difficulty walking
- Dry mouth
- Sunken eyes
- Persistent headaches
- Inability to produce tears
- Inability to sweat
- Chills in hot situations
- Rapid heart rate
- Low urine output
- Severe diarrhea
- Severe constipation
- Low blood pressure
If you suspect you or someone you know is dehydrated, it is important to get them plenty of fluids and rest right away—if the problems persist, a hospital visit may be required.