Dehydration is a serious health issue for senior citizens — and if not treated, can lead to serious chronic illness. According to a 2015 study in the Journal of Gerontology Nursing, between 20 to 30 percent of senior citizens are chronically dehydrated. That means seniors are not taking in enough fluids.
According to health care experts, This is about more than just being thirsty, dehydration can lead to serious health consequences. For example, seniors who are dehydrated are hospitalized with stroke, and their strokes tend to have more lasting consequences. Chronic dehydration can also contribute to the development of a range of diseases and conditions.
The causes of dehydration in senior citizens are wide ranging. They include:
- Type 2 diabetes. Undiagnosed diabetes can cause increased urination, which can lead to dehydration.
- Decreased mobility. If a senior isn’t very mobile, that can make multiple trips to the sink for a refill, or to the bathroom, less appealing.
- Loss of cognitive abilities. Seniors with age-related cognitive decline or dementia may not remember to drink as frequently as they should or be less able to consume water regularly.
- Side effects of some medications, such as diuretics used to treat high blood pressure, can lead to loss of water and hydration. Antihistamines and laxatives can also have a diuretic effect.
- Urinary problems. Anxiety about accidents can lead some seniors to drink less in hopes of curbing the problem before it starts.
The questions many family caregivers ask is; how can I tell if my aged parent or relative is suffering from dehydration? What are the symptoms? Here is what you should be aware of:
- Dry mouth.
- Little or no urination.
- Dark-colored urine.
- Dizziness, confusion, and irritability.
- Muscle cramps.
- Increased rate of breathing and heart rate.
- Weak pulse.
- Cold hands and feet.
Keep in mind that many of these symptoms are nonspecific and may indicate other medical conditions. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to be in touch with their doctor. But you should first focus that the symptoms outlined above may be directly attributed to not drinking enough liquids.
Dehydration: How You Can Reverse This Condition.
As a responsible caregiver, here are some tips on what you should do to ensure that your loved one is properly hydrated at all times:
- Make sure that water is always available. Keep a pitcher of water close by at all times. Make it easy for your senior to pour for themselves. If they’re suffering from cognitive deficit, or dementia-alzheimer’s disease, you must be proactive and encourage them to drink.
- Provide water with every meal. In addition, also provide herbal-decaffeinated tea. It’s healthy and provides a pleasant drinking alternative.
- Remind your loved one to drink up. Some seniors may not realize that they are thirsty because of a reduced sense of thirst, so a verbal reminder can help them stay on track.
- Redouble your efforts. When the temperatures climb or seniors exercise, they’re more likely to sweat, and that can lead to dehydration. Therefore, after every exercise session and certainly during warm weather, make sure they’re getting enough to drink.