Our elderly loved ones need a little extra TLC during the hot summer months. Find out why dehydration increases with age and get valuable tips on keeping your favorite senior hydrated.
Senior dehydration is a common health issue that can lead to bigger problems if proper hydration is not made a priority, such as urinary tract infections and low blood pressure. Proper hydration helps to keep the body and vitals regulated. The University of Chicago Medical Center found that 40% of heat-related fatalities in the U.S. were among people over 65.
What Can Cause Dehydration?
There are a number of reasons the elderly are so prone to dehydration:
- The ability to notice changes in body temperature typically decreases with age.
- As people get older, body water content decreases.
- Many medications the elderly take make them more susceptible to dehydration.
- The elderly often experience diminished thirst; which leads to a reduced fluid consumption.
- With aging, the kidneys have a reduced ability to concentrate urine and retain water during water deprivation.
- Specific conditions, such as reduced swallowing capacity, decreased mobility, comprehension and communication disorders, as well as, decreased mobility and/or incontinence can contribute to dehydration.
- Many seniors have underlying health conditions that make them less able to adapt to heat.
What Health Issues Can Dehydration Create?
There are some staggering statistics, compiled from The Department of Health, The Hydration for Health Initiative, The Adult & Geriatric Institute, European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, and the Department on Aging, about dehydration in seniors.
Things you should know about dehydration:
- Dehydration has been associated with increased mortality rates among older adults
- Dehydration can accelerate or bring about emergency hospitalization and/or increase the risk of hospital stays
- Dehydration is a frequent cause of hospitalization of older adults and one of the ten most frequent diagnoses responsible for hospitalization in the U.S.
- Dehydration has been associated with many elderly health issues, including elderly confusion, impaired cognition, falling and constipation
- It is estimated that avoidable costs of hospitalizations resulting from dehydration is $1.14 billion, annually
What Steps Can Be Taken To Prevent Dehydration?
Fluid intake is key. Families and caregivers need to be cognizant about risks and plan ahead to make sure aging loved ones are properly hydrated. Here are some tips to help encourage fluid consumption and reduce the risk of elderly dehydration:
- Offer fluids on a regular basis throughout the day.
- Encourage 8 oz. of fluid intake every time the senior takes medication.
- Keep water bottles and/or a water cooler available throughout the day wherever the senior is (for example, in bed, on the patio, throughout the house or at the senior living community).
- Provide favorite “mocktail” concoctions (see below for some great recipes) or your senior’s favorite beverages (make sure they’re not caffeinated or alcoholic).
Tasty Recipes To Keep Your Elderly Loved Ones Hydrated
Strawberries and Coconut Water
To make 2 Strawberry Mocktails combine:
- 1 cup (250ml) of fresh coconut water
- 1 cup (250 ml) strawberries hulled and sliced
- 3 T of sugar syrup or agave nectar
- To make the sugar syrup, boil sugar and water together in a ratio of 1:3 sugar to water until it thickens to a runny syrup consistency. Store in a jar for all future cocktail making.
- Measure 1 cup of coconut water, either directly from a cut-open coconut or from a store-bought container (if you are lucky enough to live in an area that sells fresh coconut water in a bottle).
- Combine the strawberries and sugar syrup and blend with a blender to desired consistency.
- Serve with ice.
Cucumber Lemonade with Basil
To make 3 to 4 Cucumber Lemonade treats combine:
- 1 English cucumber
- 3 C water
- 3 lemons
- 2 T sugar
- 1 small bunch basil
- 1 C soda water
- Start by cutting your cucumber in half. Peel one half and cut it lengthwise (you can cut it in half again first if need be).
- Scoop the seeds out and chop it into pieces.
- Put the cucumber pieces in a food processor and puree until smooth.
- Put puree in a fine mesh sieve over a container and push with a wooden spoon or spatula, extracting as much liquid as you can from the cucumber puree.
- Fill a separate bowl or container with 3 cups water. Squeeze 2 lemons into the water and mix in the sugar.
- Pour lemonade and cucumber juice into a pitcher or serving container. Slice remaining cucumber half (unpeeled) and remaining lemon and add to pitcher. Add basil, too. Refrigerate until chilled.
- Serve with ice.