Dehydration is such a serious issue among seniors. A UCLA study found that 40% of seniors are chronically under-hydrated. That can easily lead to dehydration and cause a variety of serious health problems, including falls, urinary tract infections (UTI), kidney stones, and many more. Adults age 65 and up have the highest hospital admission rates for dehydration.
We all need different amounts of fluid, depending on how much fluid you get throughout the day and how much you are losing due to activity, weather, and even medications. As we age we lose water content, and by the age of 80 the amount of water in our body decreases by 20%. Seniors are also likely to have health conditions or take medicines that increase their risk of dehydration, like blood pressure medications that flush water from the body.
There are many reasons dehydration is so prevalent in seniors:
1). Kidneys progressively decrease the ability to retain water.
2). Thirst sensation decreases as we age. This unknowingly leads to less intake of fluids.
3). Some medications impair one’s ability to regulate body temperature leading to more sweating to occur, or have a side effect of diarrhea.
4). Illness such as diabetes, dementia, and issues with the kidneys also compound the issue.
Also, as we age mobility can become more difficult. Getting up to get a drink when thirsty is hard, and even transporting a fluid to where you want to go is hard with balance issues, a walker, or a wheelchair being used alone. Some seniors have swallowing issues with age, and that makes it unpleasant to drink or eat, even if the desire is still there. Another factor is those with dementia and other memory issues. They can forget when they drank last and if they had enough.
A key point is to look at symptoms and signs of dehydration, from mild to more severe.
Mild Dehydration Symptoms: Dry mouth, Dark-colored urine or very small amount of urine, Fatigue, Dizziness, Muscle cramps in limbs, Headaches, Feeling weak or unwell, Being sleepy or irritable.
Serious dehydration symptoms: Low blood pressure, Confusion, Difficulty walking, Fast, but weak pulse, Bloated stomach, Wrinkled skin with no elasticity, Dry and sunken eyes, Breathing faster than normal, Severe cramping and muscle contractions in the body, Convulsions.
Ways to increase fluid intake can seem difficult, but it is quite doable with some creativity and hard work. Finding new sources to get your fluids, whether it be in sugar-free beverages or frozen fruits, or even putting a slice of fruit into your glass of water. Adding a broth based soup to your daily meal plan.
Maybe, if you have to take medication, take each pill with a full glass of water. If you have a hard time with mobility, keep a pitcher of cold water close to where you sit or lay during the day, to make it easier to get your drink. And remember that 20% of our fluid intake comes from foods, so finding those fruits and veggies rich in water, as well as soups, will be a valuable resource.
Dehydration is a serious problem in all ages, but seniors need to be very aware of it. Being aware of the signs and knowing before those signs hit… and even setting reminders to drink every 30 minutes to an hour. No matter the temperature outside, continue to get a hearty amount of fluids in your daily diet. You will be amazed at how much better you feel with the correct amount of water in your system.
Stay happy, healthy, and positive always!