Staying Hydrated is Key – Especially for Seniors

Everyone knows that it’s important to stay hydrated, especially in the hot summer sun.  But it is key for the elderly to get enough fluids.  Seniors are far more likely to experience health problems when they are not getting enough fluids.  Unfortunately, they are also much more susceptible to dehydration.  As we age, it becomes harder for our bodies to retain water.  Seniors have on average 10% less fluid in their bodies compared to younger adults.

4 reasons why we need to drink more fluids as we age:

  1. Older people are more likely to have certain medical problems that can cause dehydration such as influenza, digestive problems and high blood sugar.
  2. Many seniors take medications for high blood pressure, heart disease, or kidney and liver problems. These medications are often times diuretics and cause an increase in fluid loss.  
  3. As we get older, our kidneys start to decline and become less sensitive to anti-diuretic hormone.  This hormone helps conserve the water in our bodies by reducing the loss of water in our urine.  So, when our body isn’t responding like it should to the hormone, we lose more water.
  4. Our thirst response mechanism also declines as we age.  This is because the mid cingulate cortex (the part of the brain that tells us if we’re thirsty) becomes less active.  Seniors aren’t able to accurately determine their level of dehydration because of this decline.

Dehydration can cause people to feel weak and dizzy, increasing the risk for falls in seniors.  The best way to prevent this from happening is early detection. Some symptoms of dehydration are:

  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Decreased urine output
  • Irritability
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness

Often times seniors don’t drink enough water because it is difficult for them to get to the bathroom so they want to reduce their need to go.  In this case, a commode chair with a raised toilet seat  placed near them may be beneficial.  This would also help with reducing the risk for falls.  Some seniors don’t drink enough fluids because they don’t feel thirsty. If you are a care taker or have elderly friends and family, really encourage drinking small amounts of water often throughout the day. This is the best way to prevent dehydration in the first place and reduce hospitalizations.  

If you have any concerns about dehydration, talk with your doctor right away.

This blog was written by the Office Manager at our Redwood Falls branch, Alicia Kastner. site headers