Proper hydration is a key component of healthy living. However,. according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, one in three older adults may not drink enough fluids each day due to physical and physiological changes common to aging.
Dehydration can be a very serious condition for anyone, but as one ages, a person grows more susceptible to the condition. For seniors, as well as their families, it’s important to be able to recognize the early symptoms of dehydration and to take the appropriate steps to prevent it.
What Causes Dehydration?
While inadequate water intake is the obvious cause of dehydration, there are actually many reasons someone can become dehydrated. This includes certain medications or during an illness. In addition, the aging process itself can contribute to the potential for dehydration as the body’s natural water content decreases with age. In addition, the ability to feel thirst slowly diminishes as one grows older, resulting in less water intake. Together, those two aging factors contribute to the potential for dehydration, especially if other factors—such as illness—are involved.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Dehydration
As with any physical condition, it’s best to be aware of symptoms as early as possible. Here are early warning signs of dehydration:
- Dry mouth and/or dry tongue with thick saliva
- Inability to urinate
- Cramps in limbs
- Crying but with few or no tears
- Weakness, dizziness, or general feeling of being unwell
- Sleepiness or irritability
If symptoms worsen or don’t improve, it’s time to consult your medical professional.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is another old saying that applies. Here are some tips for preventing dehydration in the first place:
- Drink adequate amounts of water throughout the day. Studies have shown that seniors who drink five 8-ounce glasses of water a day have lower rates of coronary heart disease—another good reason to stay hydrated. Make sure water is readily available and easy to consume, especially at bedside.
- Make a habit of having water or juice with every meal.
- Eat plenty of foods with high water content like fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid large quantities of food and drink that have a diuretic effect. These include coffee, alcohol, and high-protein drinks.
- Consult with your doctor to see if there are other appropriate steps you can take.