Dehydration is a serious problem for seniors because physical signs of aging can make it harder for seniors to detect dehydration. And while this may sound odd, studies have shown that:
- 31% of “residents in a long-term care facility” were dehydrated.
- 48% of “older adults admitted into hospitals “after treatment at emergency departments…had signs of dehydration in their lab results.”
It’s imperative that caregivers and family members do as much as possible to help seniors stay hydrated.
The causes and health risks of dehydration
We all know dehydration occurs when we don’t drink enough water throughout the day, but did you know there are other causes for dehydration?
Other causes include:
- Prescription medication like diuretics
- Excessing sweating
- Loss of blood
Aging is also a cause of dehydration. Which sounds odd if it’d been put on the list with no explanation. Aging makes us less aware of thirst, and so the body’s ability to regulate fluid balance becomes diminished.
Seniors don’t feel thirst as keenly
According to scientists our body’s ability to be aware of—and respond to—thirst is gradually blunted as we age. What this means is seniors don’t feel thirst as keenly as younger people, which increases their chances of consuming less water and so increases their chance of suffering dehydration.
How to recognize the symptoms of dehydration in seniors
Those who take care of seniors should watch for signs of dehydration. There are two main categories of dehydration, mild and more serious. While these hardly sound like scientific terms there are quite a few differences between the two.
Symptoms of mild hydration include:
- Dry tongue with thick saliva
- Cramping in limbs
- Weakness, general feeling of being unwell
- Crying; but with few tears, or no tears at all
- Sleepiness or irritability
More serious dehydration
Symptoms of more serious dehydration include:
- Bloated stomach
- Severe cramping and muscle contractions in limbs
- Rapid but weak pulse
- Breathing faster than normal
These are just some of the symptoms of mild, and more serious, dehydration.
For whatever reason, people forgot water is essential to staying alive. Drinking water is not an optional extra, here are two benefits of seniors staying hydrated:
- Seniors who drink plenty of water and stay hydrated suffer less constipation, use few laxatives, and have fewer falls. Did you know less constipation means a possible reduced risk of colorectal cancer?
- Seniors who drink at least 1.2 liters of water a day can reduce their risk of fatal coronary heart disease.
The role of caregivers in keeping seniors hydrated
Simple things like making sure there’s always a glass of water at an older person’s side is useful, as is encouraging frequent drinking in moderate amounts.
Being aware of the symptoms is important, both or caregivers and seniors. If you notice any signs of severe dehydration, please call the doctor right away.
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