For seniors, proper hydration is incredibly important. In fact, hydration is closely tied to overall health for the elderly. Getting the proper amount of fluids can help seniors enjoy more energy and better spirits; on the flip side, dehydration can lead to a whole host of negative consequences, sapping seniors of their vitality and potentially leading to conditions such as infections, pneumonia, or kidney stones.
So, as a family caregiver, what can you do to help your senior loved one stay hydrated? Let’s dive in and explore some important FAQs about proper hydration for the elderly:
Why Are Seniors At Risk of Dehydration?
While anyone can be impacted by dehydration, seniors are at a particularly high risk due to a combination of many different factors.
Over time, many older adults tend to experience a diminished sense of thirst, which can cause them to put off drinking fluids until they’re already running low. Similarly, seniors often undergo a change in their ability to process and conserve water, which can make it harder to adapt to changing temperatures and external conditions. If a senior is having problems with incontinence, they may be self-conscious or embarrassed about having an accident, and refuse to drink water as a result.
In other cases, seniors are often at risk of dehydration due to outside factors. Many seniors use medications that can lead to dehydration. Some medicines may force seniors to use the bathroom more often, while others may lead to increased sweating; both of these side effects can cause seniors to lose those much-needed bodily fluids.
A senior who is living with a chronic illness may also experience dehydration more frequently. Vomiting, sweating, and diarrhea can all lead to dehydration. Older adults with mobility issues may not be able to get up and pour themselves a glass of water whenever they’d like to; seniors may also be experiencing changes to their vision, which can make it more difficult to handle drinkware. Similarly, seniors experiencing dementia or other cognitive changes may be more likely to forget to drink for long stretches of time.
Symptoms and Signs of Dehydration In the Elderly
As a family caregiver, it’s important to know the warning signs of dehydration in the elderly, so you can take action when necessary.
If your loved one seems to be suffering from severe dehydration, it’s important to step in and seek medical help. If your senior loved one seems to be experiencing chronic dehydration, be sure to reach out to a healthcare professional, who may be able to offer some answers – such as diagnosing whether there’s been a change in your loved one’s health, or offering guidance if it’s time to update their prescription regimen.
Day to day, keep a close eye on your loved one. Observe their fluid intake, and take note if they seem to be neglecting drinking, or going to the bathroom more frequently. Be on the lookout for some of the most common symptoms of dehydration, such as:
- Lethargy or sleepiness
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Inability to produce sweat or tears
- Dark, amber-colored urine
- Rapid heartbeat and breathing
- Dry skin
- Cold hands and feet
Helping Prevent Dehydration
If your loved one is experiencing the most severe symptoms of dehydration, don’t hesitate to get medical help as quickly as you can. For more mild symptoms, you may be able to help by encouraging your loved one to drink water as soon as possible.
In most cases, it is easier and more effective to prevent dehydration from setting in than it is to treat it after the fact. To that end, here are some important dehydration prevention tips for senior caregivers to keep in mind:
Balance fluid intake and output. Broadly speaking, health experts tend to recommend that older adults consume 57-65 ounces of water per day for optimal hydration – but it’s also important to remember that a senior may need to drink more based on their size, their lifestyle, and their level of physical activity. If your senior loved one is losing more water due to illness, medication side effects, hot weather, or physical exertion, you may need to be even more proactive about increasing their fluid intake.
- Watch out for conditions that may make dehydration more likely. Is your senior loved one working in the garden on a hot summer day? Is their home particularly dry and stuffy in the winter? Did they just start a new diuretic medication? Keep an eye on these external factors, and how they impact your loved one.
- Look for alternative fluid sources. Many older adults can be resistant to drinking plain water. In this case, it may help to offer an alternative beverage, like water infused with fruit or a flavor enhancer. Warm soups and broth can also be a hearty, nutritious, and tasty way to encourage seniors to take in more liquids. Frozen popsicles can also be a sweet, enticing method to introduce more fluids into a senior’s diet. Finally, remember that there are plenty of foods that can be truly hydrating, like cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, watermelon, and apples.
- Make it easier to take a drink. If your loved one isn’t drinking enough, it may be because water isn’t accessible. Help your loved one keep a bottle of water within reach on their bedside table, or next to their favorite armchair in the living room. Keep a pitcher on the coffee table, and make sure it’s regularly refilled. Depending on your senior loved one’s needs, you may also want to look into specialized drinkware. There are many different types of cups and water bottles designed for people who may have trouble drinking, whether due to trouble with their grip, or difficulty swallowing.
- Make drinking part of their daily routine. Help your loved one make drinking water second nature by encouraging them to drink at regular times throughout the day. For example, you could help your loved one drink a glass of water first thing in the morning every day, or make it a habit to drink a glass before going outside or hopping in the shower. The more you can make drinking water a routine, the easier it will be to avoid the problems of dehydration.
How A Senior Caregiver Can Help
If you’re concerned about your loved one suffering from dehydration, it may help to make an experienced senior companion part of their caregiving team!
Available on a flexible schedule that works for your loved one’s needs – and your own busy lifestyle as a family caregiver – a senior companion can help provide personalized support and attention to your elderly loved one.
A companion can assist by encouraging the senior to drink water throughout the day, while also observing and letting you know if your loved one seems to be experiencing any physical or emotional changes that could be connected to dehydration. A companion can make sure your loved one always has a full glass of water ready to go, and can help give your loved one additional support when they need it – whether on hot and active summer days, or on autumn afternoons full of errands and doctor’s appointments.
A senior companion can also help your loved one stick to their nourishing, hydrating diet by assisting with meal preparation and service. Just as importantly? Your loved one’s caregiver can be a friendly and familiar dining companion, which can help transform mealtimes from a chore into an experience to be savored and enjoyed.
About Companions for Seniors
When your parent could benefit from the companionship and support of an experienced professional caregiver, Companions for Seniors is here to help!
We’re a home care company locally owned in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs. At Companions for Seniors, we provide companionship for the elderly in the comfort and security of their own homes. Through our support, care, and friendship, we empower older adults to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community while nurturing meaningful relationships.
Companions for Seniors provides a free in-home assessment of your current situation, and in most cases we can be up and running in just a few days. We understand that every situation is unique, so we provide a personalized care plan that’s modified to meet each client’s specific needs. As a client’s situation changes, so does our plan of care.
From one hour to 24 hours a day, our trained and bonded companions can be there for your loved one, making aging in place easier, safer, and more enjoyable. Have any more questions? Want to get in touch? Give us a call at 866-910-9020, or reach out with our online contact form, available here.