Did you know that as we age, we lose our sense of thirst? It’s no wonder that dehydration is one of the ten most frequent diagnoses for hospitalization among Medicare patients.* Drinking enough water is essential for the body to function properly. It is generally recommended that we need to drink between 6-8 glasses of water each day to stay adequately hydrated.
For the elderly, there are many reasons why dehydration is a major concern. Many retired adults move to warmer clients. Those who live in warmer climates are prone to increased sweating and should take in additional fluids. Older adults are more frequently on high fiber diets. When on a high fiber diet, it is also recommended that you take in additional fluids. Elderly patients also tend to be on medications that can increase fluid loss. For those losing their sense of balance, there is an additional concern about falling and they may avoid extra trips to the kitchen for that essential glass of water. All of these reasons contribute to the risk of dehydration for our older population.
Without enough fluid intake, the elderly face a long list of possible side effects. If you are caring for a loved one or are worried about your own health, there are many symptoms of dehydration that you should be aware of. They can include, but are not limited to:
- Labored speech
- Dry mouth and tongue
- Sunken eyeballs
- Urinary tract infections
- Inability to sweat or produce tears
- Rapid heart rate
- A decrease in urine output
The long-term effects of dehydration are severe. Lack of water can cause a wide variety of problems including chronic pain, weight gain, loss of muscle tone, arthritis, hypertension, and constipation.
To avoid problems with dehydration, it is essential to drink even if you don’t feel thirsty. Keep a water bottle next to your chair or bed to sip on during the day. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, be sure to ask if they have a hydration program in place. Vary your beverage selection throughout the day and be sure to not just drink during meals, but throughout the day. Consume lots of high water content foods to increase water intake. Soups, Jell-O, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables are great ways to increase your fluid intake.
With consistent hydration, you will feel better. Water is essential for carrying nutrients throughout the body and cushioning the joints. Imagine how great you will feel when you are consuming enough water each and every day!
Please consult your doctor for more information on the importance of staying hydrated and how it corresponds to your personal health situation.
* Source: Health Care Financing Administration