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Dehydration: Its Dangers and Ways to Prevent It

Water is vital to keep our bodies functioning properly. We lose about 68 ounces of water a day, mostly through perspiration, respiration, and urination.

Published: Jul 12, 2016

Dehydration: Its Dangers and Ways to Prevent It

Water is vital to keep our bodies functioning properly. We lose about 68 ounces of water a day, mostly through perspiration, respiration, and urination. This water must be replaced to prevent excessive fluid loss, or dehydration.

Why is Water So Important?

  • It helps to control body temperature.
  • Perspiration keeps us cool in hot weather and protects the body against heat exhaustion.
  • Water helps the body to insulate itself against cold weather.
  • It carries nutrients to body cells and carries away waste.
  • Water promotes better digestion and intestinal function.
  • It keeps the mouth, nose, eyes, and skin moist.
  • Water ensures proper volume of blood.
  • The urinary tract can be flushed out. This is important in reducing the risk of urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infections can be serious or fatal in seniors.

Dehydration can be life-threatening. Dehydration is one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization after age 65. Kidney function is less efficient in seniors, and body water content decreases. There is also less ability to notice changes in body temperature, as well as a reduced sense of thirst. Seniors also eat less, which means they are getting fewer fluids from food. Diabetes can upset the balance even further.

If a loved one experiences any of the signs listed below, go to the ER or contact a physician immediately:

  • Fatigue
  • Cramping
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dry mouth, nose, or skin
  • Sunken eyes
  • Inability to sweat or produce tears
  • A notable increase in body temperature
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low urine output
  • Dark colored urine
  • Constipation

If you suspect dehydration in a loved one, you can check by pulling up the skin on the back of the hand for a few seconds. If it does not return to normal almost immediately, the person is dehydrated.

Sixty-four ounces of fluids daily is recommended for good health. First, ask a doctor for appropriate levels of fluid intake, especially for seniors affected by congestive heart failure or kidney disease.

Preventing Dehydration

Here are some ways to encourage your loved one to drink enough water and healthy liquids during the day:

  • Always have water and other healthy drinks in sight and within easy reach. Seniors may forget without a visual reminder. Keeping a water bottle next to the bed or their favorite chair could help, especially if they have mobility issues that discourage them from getting up to get ─ or replenish ─ their fluid supply.
  • Drink sparkling water and vegetable juice. They can reduce spikes in blood sugar and unnecessary calories throughout the day.
  • Replace caffeinated beverages with their decaffeinated versions. Sodas, coffee drinks, and teas with caffeine all have a diuretic effect on the body.
  • Try flavored water. Add juice, a flavored drink mix, or flavored ice cubes to a bottle of water to make it more enticing. Keep in mind that diabetics need sugar-free water.
  • Supply liquid nutritional supplements. They provide both water and nutrients.
  • Consume foods that help with hydration. These include broth-based soups, watermelon, apples, oranges, cucumbers, green peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes.
  • Choose healthy hydrating treats. Popsicles, water- or juice-based smoothies, frozen juice pops, Italian ices, or sorbets are hydrating treats that can help meet water consumption goals.
  • Have seniors take extra water with medications. Some medications can affect hydration.
  • Remind seniors not to wait until they are thirsty to drink. Dehydration starts before people feel thirsty.

Comfort Keepers® can help. If you’re currently responsible for a loved one’s health, you know dehydration is just one of many constant concerns. Our caregivers can help your loved one stick to recommended schedules of hydration, healthy eating, exercise, and other activities that improve quality of life. Call your local office today!

References

HealthAfter50.com. “Drink More Water. Here’s Why.” Web. 2015.
Mayo Clinic. “Diseases and Conditions: Dehydration”. Web. 2014.
APlaceforMom.com. “Elderly Dehydration: Prevention & Treatment”. Web. 2015.
University of Nevada. “Water: Fountain of Life” - Senior Wellness Series, by Claudia C. Collins, Ph.D.

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