If you could separate the human body into its basic components, water would make up the majority. Depending on age and gender, the average healthy person’s body is 50 to 65 percent water. Babies contain the highest percentage of water — sometimes up to 80 percent! But despite our bodies being so hydrated, a person starts to feel thirsty when they lose just two or three percent of their body’s total water capacity.
It’s clear that water is an essential part of life. It helps regulate temperature, dispose of waste, and keeps our joints working smoothly. Water forms the building blocks of our most essential parts. It makes sense, then, that dehydration is such a serious concern. Losing two percent of your body’s total water can impact your mental and physical performance. Losing over 10 percent without quickly replenishing it can result in death.
Seniors, whose bodies contain less water than younger adults, are at an even greater risk for dehydration. Due to a number of physiological factors, seniors are also less likely to realize they’re getting dehydrated in the first place. In fact, a UCLA study found that 40 percent of seniors may be chronically dehydrated.
Seniors Are Especially At Risk
Many considerations may worsen the risk of dehydration. Though not drinking enough water is an obvious cause of dehydration, many other factors can exacerbate it. Kidney problems are a frequent source of hydration issues. As a person ages, their kidney functions decrease. Aging kidneys develop many common problems, from infections to damage from diabetes. The combination of kidney issue and reduced water composition means that seniors need to drink more water to filter out the same amount of waste. However, many seniors do not increase their water intake as they get older.
Just as seniors slowly lose their sensitivity to taste, they also are less likely to feel thirst as keenly. Though thirst usually kicks in when a person has lost only one to two percent of their body’s water, seniors may not feel that discomfort until much later. Furthermore, certain medications may contribute to dehydration. Side effects, such as diarrhea and sweating, will naturally cause the body to lose more water. Be sure to check the common side effects of your prescriptions, and talk to your doctor about any concerns.
Seniors must receive thoughtful care, which emphasizes the need to stay hydrated. An in-home caregiver can help seniors track their daily water intake and make sure they’re staying hydrated. Because seniors may not get thirsty until they’re already dehydrated, a second pair of eyes can be the key to keeping seniors healthy.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Unfortunately, the statistics suggest that many seniors suffer from dehydration. The early symptoms — dry mouth, fatigue, and dizziness — are easy to misdiagnose or ignore. Dark-colored urine is an easy-to-spot warning sign that a senior is not drinking enough water. As dehydration progresses, its symptoms become more dramatic.
A few other signs to keep an eye out for are:
- Muscle cramps.
- Fast, weak pulse.
- Rapid breathing.
- Low blood pressure.
When it comes to the body’s most crucial resource, just a few days of dehydration can lead to serious health concerns. In its final stages, dehydration can lead to seizures, fainting, and death. With such devastating consequences to extended dehydration, preventing it from reaching that point is critical. Isolation is a concern for seniors struggling to maintain their water intake. Seniors unfamiliar with the more severe symptoms of dehydration may not understand that they’re getting dehydrated. A loved one or caregiver in the house can help spot the warning signs before they begin to rapidly progress. By monitoring symptoms and helping maintain habits which encourage extra water consumption, caregivers ensure that dehydration never becomes a question of life or death.
How To Stay Hydrated
The good news is that dehydration is fairly simple to combat: it starts with ensuring seniors drink enough water. Because seniors may not be as sensitive to thirst, drinking water before they feel thirsty is important.
Drinking water is the most efficient way to stay hydrated, but many people find it boring or even unpleasant. Luckily, there are many different ways to add more water to your diet. Eating water-rich vegetables such as cucumber, watermelon, tomato, and squash is a great way to get a dose of vitamins with your H2O. Flavored or sparkling water can add a burst of excitement to a senior’s daily drinking requirements. Milk, juice, and fruit smoothies might not contain quite as much water as the unadulterated stuff, but it can make hydration more palatable. As long as seniors watch their sugar intake and drink plain water with the alternatives, they’ll be on the right track to avoid dehydration.
Avoiding alcohol can also help. Because alcohol is a diuretic, drinking it actually increases a person’s net fluid loss. It’s also harder to remember to keep up with your water-drinking regimen after having a beer or two.
Staying hydrated can be a difficult task for seniors to face alone. Requiring constant daily monitoring, drinking enough water is a long-term commitment. An in-home caregiver can keep an eye out for the signs of dehydration and help seniors stay on top of their daily hydration regimen. They can also brainstorm new and appealing ways for seniors to meet their water-intake goals. When it comes to the body’s most essential element, there’s no room for error.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.