5 Tips for Preventing Dehydration in the Elderly

Dehydration is a far greater danger for the elderly than many of us realize. According to the National Center Health Statistics, people aged 75 and over are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized due to dehydration than people aged 65 to 74.

As people age, their risk goes up for several reasons. Muscle and bone mass, which contain 73 percent water, begin to decrease, lowering their bodies’ fluid reserves. Thirst sensations also decrease, so they aren’t always aware that they’re thirsty. A loss of mobility, cognitive issues and chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and dementia, make the problem even worse.

The elderly need extra help staying hydrated, especially if they’re in a home care or a hospice situation and making their own choices about nutrition. Here are five tips from the Aurum Network that caregivers and family members can use to make sure they’re drinking enough water.

1. Simple Reminders

Frequent encouragement to drink water may be the simplest and most effective solution. Don’t advise them to drink large amounts at once, making the experience daunting. Suggest it every 15 or 20 minutes in small doses, and provide a variety of beverages to make it more pleasant.

Ice pops, smoothies, and other liquid-but-not-totally-liquid drinks can help the process by giving them more diverse choices that are less tedious than drinking from a glass of water over and over.

2. Consider Illnesses and Medications

Older people need to drink even more water if they have kidney disease, irritable bowel syndrome, uncontrolled diabetes, or even a common cold or a sore throat, says the Mayo Clinic.

Specific medications increase urination and can keep people chronically dehydrated if they don’t drink enough water. These include diuretics, which reduce excess body fluids, alpha blockers prescribed for high blood pressure, antidepressants, narcotic pain relievers, sedatives, and sleeping pills. Since seniors are commonly given these medications, they also need to take in extra water to combat any dehydration risk that comes with taking them. Make sure all health care providers are aware of everything they’re taking to ensure that their dosage is safe.

Certain nutrition supplements and dietary extracts can also increase dehydration. Health Magazine lists parsley, celery seed, dandelion and watercress as four to avoid if you’re trying to stay hydrated.

3. Discourage High-Protein Diets

High-protein (read: low-carb) diets can cause dehydration, which overworks the kidneys and increase the risk of bone loss and osteoporosis, according to NASA. If the elderly person in your life is trying to lose weight, advise him or her to get plenty of whole-grains and not to overdo the protein.

Fruits and vegetable are comprised mainly of water, so snacking on them can increase an older person’s ability to conserve water stores while adding more water to their bodies, a definite win/win. Not to mention the rich source of vitamins and minerals they’ll get.

4. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol

Coffee is a huge part of most senior citizens’ lives, whether they’re living the active retirement lifestyle or in nursing homes or assisted care facilities. It’s served wherever they go, and many drink far more than they should. Caffeine acts as a diuretic and can greatly increase dehydration.

If your loved one is drinking more than a couple cups of coffee a day, encourage him or her to switch to decaf or, even better, get into the habit of sipping water or another caffeine-free beverage instead. The same goes for alcoholic drinks, such as beer and wine, which also dehydrate.

5. Watch the Salt

Salt is another culprit. Sodium works with potassium to regulate the balance of water in our bodies. Unfortunately, most Americans, including the elderly, take in too much sodium and not enough potassium. Encourage them not to add extra salt to their meals and to make low-sodium choices whenever possible.

Let Us Help

If you have questions regarding these or other concerns about assisted living communities in the Aurum Network, contact us at (978) 282-9551 or use our facility locator tool.

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