As we get older our body’s ability to conserve water diminishes. And this makes it difficult for us to adapt to temperature changes. In summer and in winter!

water bottle
Medications can also affect a senior’s ability to retain fluids. Laxatives, diuretics, antihistamines, antipsychotics and corticosteroids can all cause us to go to the loo more often. This depletes our fluids and electrolytes. And alcohol doesn’t help.

Also, our sense of thirst also reduces with age. So, by the time you feel thirsty, your body’s essential fluids could already be really low. And if someone has issues with incontinence or has dementia, they may also limit or forget to take in fluids.

Signs of dehydration

Early signs of dehydration are headaches; muscle cramps; constipation; lethargy; sleepiness; and dry mouth. When it’s severe, it shows up as dry skin that stays folded when pinched; irritability, dizziness or confusion. There’s also little or no urine output. And if there is, it’s dark or amber-coloured.

Someone who’s dehydrated in a major way can experience low blood pressure, rapid breathing and a fast heartbeat. They can also have a weak pulse, and cold hands and feet. This can progress to seizures as a result of electrolyte imbalance, reduced volume of blood in the body, kidney failure, coma and even death.

Hydration station

While staying hydrated can be helped by drinking more, some foods also have a high water content. Here are some tips for increasing fluid intake:

  • try flavoured waters if plain water isn’t palatable
  • give half-water half-juice or fruit-infused water as an alternative
  • vegetable broth is a soothing, savory source of fluid and electrolytes in winter
  • try different serving temperatures - for hot and cold drinks
  • milkshakes, smoothies and ice-blocks have plenty of liquid
  • use a brightly coloured cup for someone with poor vision or one with two handles, a no-spill lid, built-in straw or that has ergonomic features
  • an old fashioned soda fountain glass with a piece of fresh fruit on the rim could be an enticing presentation
  • Raw fruit and veggies pack a punch as far as fluids go. A small plate of celery sticks, cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes served with hummus makes a fluid-filled snack. Watermelon, oranges, grapes, blueberries and apples also contain high percentages of water.

Source: Aging Care

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