Dehydration: Helping seniors stay safe this summer
Sure, some like it hot…but not THIS hot!
We’re right in the middle of one of the hottest summers on record, with over 75% of Birmingham’s daily high temps being 85 degrees or more, including 13 days of 90 degrees or higher!
Extremely hot weather means it’s easier to get dehydrated, and for people over 65 it can be much more dangerous than for younger adults and children.
A recent UCLA study found that 40% of seniors may be chronically under-hydrated. That can cause a variety of serious health problems, including urinary tract infections (UTI), falls, kidney stones and more. Adults age 65 and up have the highest hospital admission rates for dehydration.
What is dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than you take in. When that happens, your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If you don’t replace those lost fluids, you’ll get dehydrated.
Dehydration can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on how much of your body weight is lost through fluids. Water makes up over two-thirds of the healthy human body. When that number drops drastically, it can lead to several symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of dehydration?
Two early signs of dehydration are thirst and dark-colored urine. This is your body’s way of trying to increase water intake and decrease water loss.
Other symptoms may include:
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Dry mouth, lips or eyes
- Passing only small amounts of urine infrequently (less than three or four times a day)
- Loss of strength and stamina. It’s a main cause of heat exhaustion.
There are a few reasons why older adults are more susceptible to fluid and electrolyte imbalances.
With age, your ability to conserve water is reduced. This can make it difficult to adapt to fluctuating temperatures. By the time you feel thirsty, your essential fluids could already be extremely low.
Certain medical conditions and medications can affect a senior’s ability to retain fluids. Individuals with dementia may forget to eat and drink, and in more advanced stages may have difficulty swallowing.
Drugs like diuretics, antihistamines and laxatives can cause frequent urination. This depletes your water and electrolytes. Some seniors who experience incontinence may refuse or limit fluids in order to avoid accidents.
The symptoms can be concerning, but dehydration is manageable if you take the right steps to avoid it.
5 ways to help prevent dehydration
- Continually drink small amounts of fluids throughout the day, rather than larger amounts all at once. Plain water is usually best.
- Five 8-ounce glasses of water per day is good for most seniors. Studies have shown that elderly adults who drink five glasses of water a day have lower rates of fatal coronary heart disease.
- Avoid coffee, alcohol and high-protein drinks, especially in large quantities. They can lead to a greater loss of body water, which can cause or worsen dehydration.
- Recognize the early warning signs of dehydration. These can include dizziness, fatigue and headaches.
- Foods high in water, like fresh fruits, vegetables and some dairy products, can help meet daily water needs.
Want to learn more?
If you have any questions or want to learn more about staying hydrated, please call 248-540-4555, or email CommunityRelations@baldwinhousebham.com. We’d be glad to talk to you more about the best ways to stay hydrated!