Hydration is crucial to healthy living at all ages, but it's especially important for seniors because our bodies don't retain as much water as we age. This makes us more susceptible to dehydration, which can lead to discomfort and even severe health concerns.
"The better hydrated you are, the healthier you are," says Mark, national director of culinary operations for The Goodman Group.
In this article, you'll find some tips to ensure your loved one stays hydrated in any season. But first, a short lesson on dehydration.
WHAT CAUSES DEHYDRATION, AND WHY ARE SENIORS AT RISK OF DEHYDRATION?
While inadequate water intake is the obvious cause of dehydration, there are actually many reasons someone can become dehydrated, like certain medications or an illness. The aging process itself can even contribute to the potential for dehydration, as the body’s natural water content decreases with age. In addition, our sensitivity to the feeling of thirst slowly diminishes as one grows older, resulting in less water intake. Together, those factors contribute to the potential for dehydration, especially if other factors — such as illness — are involved.
RECOGNIZING THE SYMPTOMS OF DEHYDRATION IN SENIORS
As with any physical condition, it’s best to be aware of symptoms of dehydration as early as possible. Here are signs your loved one might be dehydrated:
- 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.
As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So, what are some ways we can prevent dehydration from occurring in the first place?
ALWAYS CARRY A WATER BOTTLE
It may not be the most convenient thing to do, but carrying a water bottle everywhere serves as a reminder to stay hydrated and allows constant access to water.
"It's as important for residents to carry a water bottle as it is for younger people," Mark says. "I think sometimes residents view it as not well-mannered to drink water out of a bottle. However, the disadvantage to that is you could go a long time without water."
Your loved one doesn't need to carry a plastic disposable water bottle around that crinkles each time it's opened. Have them choose a permanent hard plastic or stainless steel one at the store. You can even make it fun and help them find one in their favorite color or pattern.
"Find your favorite water bottle and drink away!" Mark says.
NOT A FAN OF PLAIN WATER? TRY A FUN RECIPE
Not everyone likes the taste of plain water. If your loved one falls into this category, don't worry. There are countless ways to improve the taste. For example, at many communities managed by The Goodman Group, we offer residents the option to infuse their water with tasty fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Some of Mark's favorite combinations include pineapple, strawberry, and mint; honeydew and sage; cucumber, lemon, and cilantro; orange, blueberry, and basil; and lemon and thyme.
Not sure where to start with infused water recipes? Download our infused water calendar for a little inspiration!
When crafting your own infused water, keep these tips in mind:
- Wash produce and rinse herbs to remove chemicals, pesticides and other residue. Use cold or room temperature water. (Hot water makes produce fall apart faster and can compromise the nutrients you’re trying to get out of the ingredients.)
- Softer fruits like citrus and strawberries can be sliced thick, thin, halved, or quartered. Harder fruits like apples should be sliced very thinly because they take longer to release flavors.
- Crush fibrous ginger root, rosemary, and lemongrass with a muddler or wooden spoon; tear or crush leafy herbs like mint, basil and cilantro to release their oils.
- Loose herbs and flowers - lavender, rose petals, dried hibiscus - can be corralled in a tea infuser or cheesecloth.
- To keep sipping all day long, refill your infused water container when it’s half full. It will be weaker than your first drink, but still flavorful.
You can also make unique lemonade recipes. Mark enjoys experimenting with flavors when it comes to lemonades, too. Some of those that stand out are his lavender lemonade, mint lemonade, sparkling ginger lemonade, and sparkling kiwi lemonade.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES ARE ALSO A SOURCE OF HYDRATION
Fruits of any kind — melons, berries, pomes, tomatoes — supply our bodies with small amounts of water. "You can eat your fruit with other foods, but avoid dry foods," Mark says. "For example, enjoy your blueberries in a cream versus a cookie."
Vegetables — squash, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, and cucumbers — also provide small amounts of water – especially if you steam them or make them part of a hydration-focused diet.
"I also recommend eating iceberg lettuce because it has higher water content," Mark says. "It doesn't have much nutritional value other than water."
These foods paired with several glasses of water, lemonade, or tea per day, and your loved one will be well hydrated and healthy.