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Dehydration Dangers for Seniors

Now that we have all put away our snow shovels and winter coats for the season, it is time to look forward to all of the good things summer in the midwest brings. More sunshine and warmer temperatures mean better weather, but can also mean an increased risk of dehydration for seniors throughout the area. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to dehydration and how you can focus on healthy hydration all season long.

What is dehydration?

When you hear the word dehydration, you likely think that it’s simply not drinking enough water. While that is partially true, it is also important to note that dehydration happens when you lose more fluids than you take in. This is why dehydration risks increase in the summer season when we are sweating and losing more fluids than we are drinking.

Why is dehydration dangerous for seniors?

Anyone of any age can become dehydrated. However, seniors are at an increased risk for dehydration for a variety of factors such as medication side effects and decreased ability to sense thirst. Seniors with limited mobility, endurance, balance, or strength may also be less likely to head into the kitchen to refill their bottle of water multiple times throughout the day. Further, seniors with incontinence challenges (or anxiety about incontinence) can often dehydrate themselves in order to avoid having any accidents.

When a senior becomes dehydrated, they can experience symptoms like dry mouth, fatigue, or muscle cramping. They can also begin to feel lightheaded or dizzy, which increases their risk of falling. Most alarmingly, dehydration in seniors often causes acute, or sudden, confusion. This is scary for family members and for the seniors, and prolonged dehydration can also contribute to urinary tract infections, another cause of sudden disorientation.

Long story short, dehydration can cause dangerous side effects in older adults.

How can I help my aging loved one stay hydrated?

The best way to avoid dehydration in the summer season is to practice good hydration habits all year long. Here are a few ways you can empower and assist your aging loved one to make fluid intake a priority.

Keeping water bottles handy is one way to encourage good hydration habits.
  • Encourage water over all other fluids. This doesn’t mean your loved one has to give up their morning coffee or evening tea. However, it does mean that they should focus on drinking water above juice, caffeinated beverages, or alcoholic beverages. A good tip is to have a cup of water before your morning coffee and then throughout the day.
  • Invest in a few reusable water bottles or cups that your loved one can keep throughout their home. We recommend putting one by the bedside, by a favorite chair in the living room, and one that stays in a bag or purse.
  • Review medications with your loved one’s physician. You may be able to switch out a few medications so they do not cause dehydration as a side effect.
  • Keep foods that are high in water content prepared in the fridge so your loved one can snack on them any time. Try chunks of watermelon, slices of cucumber, or grapes.
  • Ensure your loved one is dressing appropriately for the weather. Wear layers of cool, thin fabrics.
  • Make sure your loved one is running their air conditioner as needed so that their home is cool and safe.

The best way to ensure your loved one is staying hydrated is to constantly cue drinking water throughout the day. That’s where the team at Lovebird HomeCare comes in. Our caregivers provide a constant source of companionship and support to our clients, and we are sure to remind them to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Call us today to talk more about our services and how we can serve you and your loved one.

Let’s all raise a glass (of water) to good hydration and health this summer!

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