Seniors: Why Hydration is Crucial as You Age

As we age, we become more susceptible to dehydration. Because water contributes to many of the human body’s most important functions—like the regulation of internal body temperature, transfer of nutrients through the bloodstream and lubrication of joints—it is important stay hydrated and healthy.

Why are Seniors at a Higher Risk?

A natural part of aging is the loss of our bodies’ water content—up to 50 percent, in fact!  Factors that commonly contribute to this dehydration include:

  • Reduced sense of thirst
  • Chronic illness
  • Dementia
  • Lack of appetite
  • Certain medications
  • Physical disability
  • Deliberate fluid restriction to avoid using the restroom if suffering from limited mobility
  • Embarrassment due to frequency of restroom use from weak bladder
  • Reluctance to ask for assistance for those who cannot access beverages

Know the Symptoms

Recognizing the symptoms of dehydration, especially in aging adults, can prevent a number of dangerous conditions. Here is what to look out for:

  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Dark urine
  • Decreased skin elasticity
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Increased heart rate or a sudden change in blood pressure upon standing

Prevention is Key

Use these tips to help prevent dehydration and stay hydrated:                     

    • Try to drink between each meal. This is especially important for those who are cognitively impaired.
    • Track fluid intake and output.
    • Make a “fluids schedule” to encourage hydration at specific points throughout the entire day.
    • Make sure water is within reach throughout the day.
    • Try drinking fluids a few ounces at a time so it’s not overwhelming.
    • Try a variety of hydrating fluids to prevent boredom. Mix in decaffeninated coffee or tea to your fluid intake throughout the day.
    • Try infusing water with fruit, herbs or cucumber to make it taste better.
    • Accommodate for any disability with drinking equipment, such as straws or cups with handles.
    • Include fruits and vegetables in every meal, they naturally provide water to the body.
    • Don’t make the process of hydrating feel forced, make it easy and a natural part of your daily routine.

Making an effort to stay hydrated is crucial at any age. While the risk of dehydration increases as we age, simple changes and good habits can prevent harmful conditions related to decreased hydration levels. Keep these tips in mind, and start enjoying the benefits of a healthy, hydrated body.

About the Author: Dr. Raymond Hobbs, physician consultant with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

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Photo credit: A Healthier Michigan

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