• Jamie Berns

Hydration Tips

My biggest struggle has always been to drink enough water. I call myself the camel - i.e. I do not drink often nor feel thirsty. But, as I have gotten older, I realize that rather than an asset, this behavior is problematic. I have often felt the effects of mild dehydration, not to mention that in comparison to some of my well hydrated friends, my skin is less supple and my lips are always dry. You too may have experienced some of the effects of mild dehydration. If so, you probably didn't feel that you were at your best. Some possible dehydration symptoms, include:

  • Fatigue

  • Memory problems

  • Poor concentration

  • Irritability

  • Headache

Are you ever plagued by any of these problems? It may be that you are simply not consuming enough liquids. The long-term effects of not drinking enough water are the factors that lead to chronic dehydration. Chronic dehydration can be characterized by one or a combination of these symptoms:

  • Low blood pressure

  • Dizziness

  • Skin problems, including pressure sores

  • Constipation

  • Kidney problems, including kidney stones and UTIs

  • Increased risk of urinary tract infections

If left untreated, you can die from dehydration. If dehydration becomes severe you are in danger of:

  • Seizures: Dehydration may cause an electrolyte imbalance. In elderly people, particularly those with cardiac problems, the consequences can be particularly serious. Electrolytes are essential because they transport electrical signals to our muscles, changes to our body's electrolyte balance can lead to seizures.

  • Shock: Low blood volume shock (also called hypovolemic shock) occurs when we experience a sudden drop in blood volume. Dehydration may lead to low blood volume, which in turn leads to a drop in blood pressure and, sometimes, shock.

  • Kidney failure: Dehydration complications such as low blood volume may reduce blood flow to the kidneys, leaving a potential for lasting damage to the renal system over time.

  • Heat exhaustion or heat stroke: Our bodies cool down by sweating. Without enough fluid to produce adequate amounts of sweat, we can quickly become overheated.

And this list just names a few! Depending on a person's overall health, physical activity levels and environment, it takes anywhere from a few days to several weeks to die from dehydration Death with Dignity National Center. In general, if not treated, a loss of more than 10 percent of a person's body weight through fluid loss is a medical emergency that can lead to death.

A normal adult usually will drink when she is thirsty and that response will prevent dehydration. For elderly people even a small drop in body-fluid levels can lead to physical and cognitive problems Age and Aging. The natural aging process weakens the body’s ability to signal it does not have enough fluid. Thus, older adults don’t feel as thirsty as younger people do, and they may not realize they need to drink water. In addition the following list name several things that contribute to elder’s dehydration--

  • Limited mobility Aging adults who are frail or have difficulty walking on their own may be less likely to get water for themselves or may depend on others to give them fluids.

  • Multiple medications Some of these medicines may be diuretics, which increase urination. Others may cause patients to sweat more, such as certain cancer medications.

  • Cognitive impairment Older adults who have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia may need to be reminded to drink fluids or may need help staying hydrated.

  • Health conditions Uncontrolled diabetes or kidney disease may increase the risk of dehydration.

  • Common illnesses Common illnesses such as a cold or a sore throat may make an older adult less likely to drink enough fluids.

A few helpful tips enabled me to increase my liquids so that I now look younger and feel better!! I leave written reminders around the house, especially in my kitchen and on my night stand, so when I wake up or walk downstairs for a quick bite I remember to grab a glass of water. If that doesn’t appeal to you, set reminders or a timer on your phone to go off every 1-2 hours during the day. Encourage your elderly friends or loved ones who may be dehydrated to look to these alternatives:

  • Eat foods with a high water content (watermelon, cucumbers, celery, strawberries)

  • Experiment with beverages at different temperatures

  • Try tastier alternatives to water (broth, lemon water, sparkling water, Ensure, or smoothies)

  • Make healthy popsicles

  • Eat Jell-O

Final Thoughts on Dehydration:

In many cases helping a loved one with issues such as dehydration becomes so challenging that it may be helpful to hire an outside caregiver. Senior Solutions is available 24 hours a day and can provide the care needed to address this issue, as well as transportation, meal preparation, medication reminders, general companionship, personal care, housekeeping and more. We provide trained caregivers that are chosen to meet your loved one’s specific needs, who become more like family then merely aides.

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