Everybody needs water. We are often told to drink plenty of water a day to prevent dehydration and its effects. While dehydration can affect anyone, its risk is higher in older adults. This is why it is important to know the tell-tale signs and symptoms of dehydration in elderly. Spotting the signs at the onset is crucial in preventing the adverse effects of dehydration, especially among seniors.
Why is drinking enough fluids important? Aside from the fact that no one can survive without water, drinking sufficient amounts of water and fluids help eliminate waste and toxins, digest food better, regulate temperature, maintain one’s blood pressure, and other healthy functions.
Elderly and dehydration
The elderly are more susceptible to various health conditions compared to younger individuals. They have higher risks for dehydration as well. This is due to several factors associated with aging:
- Decreased total body fluid.When people age, the amount of water reserves in their body also begin to decline With less body fluid, they are more prone to dehydration.
- Weaker thirst response. We drink water because we are thirsty. Thirst is our body’s way of reminding us to drink water. The problem is, one’s thirst response weakens with age. Hence, older adults don’t often feel thirsty as they should be.
- Decreased kidney function. As with other parts of the body, the kidney doesn’t function as healthy as when we were younger. It declines as we age. This results in loss of water during urination.
- Health conditions and taking certain medications. Water loss may be a side effect of certain medications. Dehydration may also be triggered by other underlying health conditions affecting the elderly.
Causes of dehydration in elderly
Understanding what causes and triggers dehydration in older adults is important. Knowing these causes can help you prevent dehydration. The common causes include the following:
- Exposure to humid conditions and hot temperature can lead to excessive sweating, which can result in increased fluid and water loss in the body.
- Fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and other illness may also cause dehydration.
- Mobility problem, which is common among seniors, can also result in decreased water intake. This happens when seniors have difficulty getting water by themselves.
- Underlying health conditions like kidney disease and diabetes can also cause dehydration.
- Certain medications can cause increased urination as a side effect. This leads to increased fluid loss, which when not prevented, can result in dehydration.
Side Effects and Symptoms of Dehydration in Seniors
Dehydration in the elderly should not be taken lightly. It can lead to serious consequences, which can result in frequent hospitalization and health complications. Even in cases of mild dehydration, the senior can still be seriously affected. Mild dehydration is associated with lack of concentration and attention, reduced reaction response, and memory impairment.
Dehydration can cause fatigue and exhaustion as well, which increases the senior’s risk of falls. Additionally, dehydration can cause itchy skin, dry skin, pressure sores, and other skin problems. It has been linked to the increased mortality rate among seniors with stroke. It affects kidney functioning, which when left untreated, can result in serious kidney problems.
Other effects, symptoms, and signs of dehydration in elderly include:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Darker urine
- Less urination
- Sunken eyes
In severe and more serious causes, dehydration can cause:
- Difficulty moving and walking
- Rapid heart rate
Now that you know the symptoms and effects of dehydration, it is easier for you to prevent it. The key is to stay hydrated. These are some tips you can follow in order to prevent dehydration:
- Drink as much water as you can throughout the day. Take small sips if you find it hard to gulp down too much water. Don’t wait for you to get thirsty. Other fluids like fruit juices, flavored water, and low-sugar milk are also great for hydration. Don’t drink too much tea and coffee.
- Eat foods with high water content. These include watermelon, strawberries, cucumber, and celery.
- Put lime or lemon on your water if you are not fond of drinking pure water.
- Drink more water than usual when you go exercising or you go out in hot weather or humid conditions.
- Hire a caregiver that will provide personal care services for the person you love.
If you are taking care of a senior, see to it that they drink plenty of water in a day. Here are what you can do:
- Place water within easy reach from the senior.
- Constantly remind the senior to hydrate.
Knowing and understanding the dehydration effects, signs, symptoms, and causes are essential in its prevention and treatment. The key is to replace the lost fluids. Keep hydrated throughout the day. Drink plenty of water and other nutritious liquids, and incorporate foods with higher water content in your daily diet.