For one reason or another, many older adults don’t stay hydrated like they should. While dehydration might seem like a relatively minor issue, it can lead to serious medical problems that can place seniors’ independence at risk. And although dehydration is common, it is also easily preventable in most cases.
As an informal caregiver, it’s important to identify dehydration warning signs, along with ways to keep your loved one properly hydrated. What follows are some dehydration-prevention tips that every caregiver should know.
Why Older Adults Get Dehydrated More Easily
Age-related factors that put the average senior at risk for dehydration include:
- Physical changes. As the body ages, it undergoes physical changes that affect one’s ability to maintain a healthy water balance. Seniors often experience a diminished sensation of being thirsty and take in less fluid from food as their appetite decreases.
- Illnesses or medical conditions. Seniors with medical conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s disease are at higher risk for dehydration. Having diabetes, undergoing chemotherapy, the flu, pneumonia, and other conditions can directly affect body water levels.
- Medications. Certain drugs can increase urination or perspiration, while others decrease appetite, any of which will then interfere with the body’s natural fluid balance.
Dehydration Symptoms in Seniors
The symptoms of dehydration can be subtle and are often masked by other common signs of aging. As a result, be mindful to watch for these telltale indicators that your loved one isn’t getting enough fluids:
Headaches, cramping in the limbs, an inability to produce tears while crying, dry mouth, thick saliva, dark yellow or brown urine, joint pain, fatigue, irritability, weakness, and a cloudy or fogged brain are all early warning signs of dehydration. For seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, even mild dehydration can cause noticeable worsening in thinking skills or confusion.
Once it’s advanced to a more serious phase, the symptoms of dehydration can be severe. You might see convulsions, confusion, bloating, muscle spasms, low blood pressure, dry and sunken eyes, rapid breathing, wrinkled skin, or a rapid and weak pulse. If these symptoms cannot be managed at home, it’s best to quickly get your loved one to the nearest hospital.
Dehydration-Prevention Tips for Seniors
As a concerned caregiver, here’s how to ensure that your loved one stays hydrated:
Determine their daily needs
Although the normal level of hydration varies from individual to individual, a good rule-of-thumb is to take one’s body weight and divide it by three. For example, if mom weighs 150 pounds, she needs to drink 50 ounces of water or comparable fluids per day- an amount that’s equivalent to about six 8-ounce glasses.
If your loved one has a medical condition or takes medications that could cause or worsen dehydration, learn all you can about them. Remind your senior about the importance of drinking water, even when they don’t feel thirsty. If they don’t like to drink water, substitute milk or natural fruit juices. Also encourage them to avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and high-protein drinks, as those can have a reverse effect.
It’s also important for older adults to eat healthy, high-water content fruits like berries, grapes, peaches, and watermelon. Water-rich vegetables like lettuce, summer squash, and tomatoes are also good for seniors. If your loved one has trouble swallowing, feed them healthy soups and broths, or offer them sports drinks and electrolyte-filled beverages like Pedialyte. If you have additional questions or concerns, speak to their doctor about other ways to prevent dehydration.
Reliable In-Home Care for Manatee County Seniors
Keeping an aging loved one hydrated in the hot Florida sun isn’t easy when you can’t always be there. At First In Care, our compassionate caregivers can step in and provide your senior with the nurturing they deserve. While serving as an extended family in your loved one’s home, our highly trained professionals understand what’s required to maintain a client’s quality of life, along with their dignity and self-esteem.
In addition to dietary assistance and hydration monitoring that’s uniquely tailored to your family’s needs, First In Care also provides in-home support for other daily living activities like personal hygiene, light housework, medication reminders, and transportation. Our senior caregiving services are affordable, flexible, and always delivered in a seamless package that restores your peace of mind. To learn more now about our private home health and concierge services in Bradenton and throughout Sarasota and Manatee Counties, please visit www.firstincare.com.