It’s one of the hottest summers on record, and dehydration among the elderly is more of a concern than ever. With heat domes over the west and heat waves over most other parts of the country, people of all ages should be drinking water all day long. We are constantly pushing water in my gym this summer for our members of all ages whether they are exercising inside or outside!
Dehydration among the Elderly is a Common Problem
According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the major benefits of drinking water is that it helps to regulate your body’s temperature, so important in this intense heat. However, seniors don’t ever seem to drink enough water. In fact, seniors don’t often feel thirsty until they’re already dehydrated. The situation is even worse with individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. They don’t always recognize their own signs of thirst. They also may have difficulty organizing the task of “getting something to drink”, or they may forget to drink entirely.
My Dad tells me he doesn’t want to drink water throughout the day because he doesn’t want to have to visit the bathroom that frequently. My Mom used to drink diet coke instead of water because she liked the taste of coke better! (Diet coke does quench thirst and soft drinks do provide fluid, but they don’t hydrate the way water does.)
As an adult daughter with an 89-year-old father, when I bring up the need for my Dad to drink more water he has pushed back, made excuses, and even dismissed the seriousness of the issue. It might be the same for you. Despite that, it’s important to keep reminding your older parents and friends to drink more water to stay hydrated.
Why are Seniors at More Risk for Dehydration?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “As you age, your body’s fluid reserve becomes smaller, your ability to conserve water is reduced, and your thirst sense becomes less acute. These problems are compounded by chronic illnesses such as diabetes and dementia, and by the use of certain medications. Older adults also may have mobility problems that limit their ability to obtain water for themselves.” When you visit your elderly relatives or call to check in on them ask (or observe) whether they are experiencing any of the classic signs of dehydration: fatigue, confusion, headache, dizziness and/or thirst.
6 Tips to Prevent Dehydration in Older Adults
Here are some easy suggestions for how to make sure your parents and older friends have enough to drink every day! If you are caring for an elderly Mom or Dad at home, you can make this part of your daily routine.
#1 Set a daily drinking schedule
Post it on the refrigerator. It doesn’t have to be super regimented. It can be simple, such as having a full glass of water first thing in the morning, a beverage after a daily walk, while reading the newspaper, between each meal, and after working in the garden.
#2 Fill a pitcher of water each morning
Be sure that it has been consumed by evening time. This is a good way to ensure that your Mom or Dad is drinking the optimum amount of water every day. How much should they be drinking? The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
#3 Have a sports drink
Sports drinks and powdered electrolyte drink mix or tablets that replace electrolytes are all the craze with younger people, and people of all ages who exercise regularly. They also often add Pedialyte to the water in their sports bottles. These are good options to combat dehydration for older adults, too. Try out some drinks like gatorade and electrolyte-infused water. They come in many tasty fruit options.
#4 Eat more fruit and vegetables
You don’t need to rely just on water to meet your fluid needs. Many fruits and vegetables, such as grapefruit, watermelon and spinach, are almost 100% water by weight. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 20% of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks. [8 Foods High in Water that can Prevent Dehydration]
#5 Be creative
People get bored with drinking just plain water. You can experiment with new flavors by adding various fresh berry fruits, watermelon, cucumber, and herbs such as mint and basil, to a pitcher or glass of water. Seltzers come in many different flavors now – everything from the old standards lemon and lime to the new tropical cherry and watermelon mojito. You can mix these flavored seltzer waters with a little juice for an even stronger kick. Taste test some new herbal iced teas. Have coconut water. These beverages, as well as milk and all juices, are composed mostly of water. They are a good option to combat dehydration.
#6 Have a treat
Have a popsicle. Make a fruit smoothy, milkshake, ice cream soda or root beer float! All of these count towards hydration. Just don’t have them as your only source of fluid for the day.
Good luck staying hydrated as we all look forward to cooler temperatures ahead!