Staying Hydrated for Older Adults
We’ve all heard the old adage: “by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.” But did you know that as we age, our sense of thirst becomes less sensitive? Our body may need to be replenished with fluids and we may not realize it. Below are some tips for staying hydrated all day long, especially during the summer months when we’re prone to lose more water due to sweating.
Why is Dehydration Dangerous?
Dehydration is especially concerning for older adults because a lack of fluids can cause weakness and dizziness that can lead to falls. Not getting enough water can also lead to constipation. In extreme cases, dehydration can cause major health problems like kidney stones, passing out, or a dangerous drop in your blood pressure.
Why is it Difficult for Seniors to Stay Hydrated?
Seniors are more likely to become dehydrated for several reasons, including:
- Drinking less in an attempt to avoid frequent trips to the bathroom,
- Being less sensitive to the feeling of being thirsty,
- Difficulty getting up to get water or liquids due to limited mobility,
- Medication side effects that cause increased sweating, diarrhea, or are diuretics (cause your body to flush water).
How Much Do I Need to Drink to Stay Hydrated?
This is a tough question, since the answer will differ from person to person. The standard advice of “eight 8-ounce glasses per day” does not necessarily apply to everyone. Be sure to consult with your doctor, especially if you are on medications for diabetes, blood pressure, or congestive heart failure (CHF).
A good rule of thumb is to listen to what your body is telling you. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s a good clue that you’re mildly dehydrated:
- Dry mouth or “cotton mouth,” with thick saliva,
- Passing only small amounts of urine, with a dark or deep yellow color,
- Cramping in your arms and legs,
- Changes in mood, exhaustion, and feeling irritable,
- Skin turgor – if you lightly pinch the skin on the back of your hand and it does not bounce back to normal right away.
Tips for Increasing Fluids
Add some flavor. Let’s face it, plain water can be boring. Make your glass more enticing by adding a few squirts of a water enhancer, or drop in a lemon, lime or orange slice. For subtle flavor, mix half a glass of water with half a glass of your favorite fruit juice. If you prefer coffee or tea, consider switching to a decaffeinated version – caffeine can trigger an overactive bladder.
Think outside the water bottle. Good old H2O is not your only option for staying hydrated. Try working fruit juice, sports drinks, coconut water, or tomato juice into your diet instead. Many foods also have a high water content. Make a snack out of a plate of cherry tomatoes, bell pepper sticks, and cucumber slices. A warm cup of savory chicken, beef or vegetable broth, or a sweet treat of a popsicle made from natural fruit juice can also do the trick.
Keep it in your face. Make sure that water (or your fluid of choice) is easily accessible to you all day long, not just at mealtimes. Strategically place water bottles or lightweight pitchers next to your favorite chair, by your computer, or any place in your house where you spend most of your time. Use an eye-catching, brightly colored cup or tumbler to catch your attention and provide a visual cue to keep sipping!
Experiment with temperatures and textures. Still don’t feel motivated? Try adding a twist to old standbys – like warming up apple juice instead of serving it cold. Or give iced coffee a try instead of your usual warm cup. Add soda water to make drinks bubbly. Or try something with a thicker texture, like flavored milks, smoothies, milkshakes, or Ensure.
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