For many, the early warning signs of dehydration can be difficult to detect in seniors. For one, elderly adults don’t feel thirst as strongly as other adults, and thirst is a common early warning sign for mild dehydration.
Drinking enough water is important for everyone, but especially for older adults who are at greater risk for dehydration. A UCLA study has found that 40% of seniors may be chronically under hydrated. That can easily lead to dehydration and cause a variety of serious health problems, including urinary tract infections, falls, kidney stones, and more.
There are a number of reasons elderly adults face a greater risk of developing dehydration. First, total body water decreases with age (from 60 percent to 52 percent in men, and from 52 to 46 percent in women). Therefore, an adult over 60 years old has less water to lose before becoming dehydrated. Chronic diseases, neurologic conditions and some prescription medications can all exacerbate dehydration quickly.
There are several risk factors that you should recognize which can heighten the risk of developing dehydration. Recognizing and understanding these risk factors can lower the risk for dehydration. Factors include: swallowing disorders, obesity, being bedridden, diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, those over 85 years old, having 5 or more chronic diseases, and taking more than 5 prescription medications.
Preventing dehydration is important because it is a common cause of hospitalization in people over age 65. Encourage your senior loved ones to drink small amounts of fluids throughout the day, rather than drinking large amounts all at once.
Seniors should avoid coffee, alcohol and high-protein drinks, especially in large quantities, because they have a diuretic effect. This leads to a greater loss of body water, which can cause or exacerbate dehydration.
You and anyone living or caring for a senior should recognize the early warning signs of dehydration. Warning signs include fatigue, dizziness, thirst, dark urine, headaches, dry mouth/nose, dry skin and cramping.
Fear of incontinence can diminish a patient’s urge to drink voluntarily. Therefore, encourage patients to drink more during the day and limit drinking before bed. Additionally, drinking small amounts of water throughout the day may help.
Tip #1 – Invest in a grabber tool. A grabber tool provides aid to seniors who may have limited mobility. It can help to grab things that are otherwise out of reach without risk of falls or injury.
Tip #2 – Install motion-activated lights. Motion-activated lights help spot suspicious activity and stop it in its tracks. This helps prevent break-ins and ensures that an attempted burglary can be spotted.
Tip #3 – Check in often. Seniors who live alone should check in often with friends and family members. This allows the support system to recognize and help with any potential issues.
Tip #4 – Keep home in good repair. A home with preventable hazards such as slippery stairs or exposed cords is dangerous for seniors. Keep the home clean and in good repair to prevent dangerous hazards that can cause harm.
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