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How to Keep Loved Ones from Dehydration

For many, the long-awaited summer months suggest family picnics, cool drinks on the porch, and lazy afternoons at the beach. But, as temperatures soar, warm weather activities can increase the risk for another staple of summer: dehydration. Not getting enough fluids, or electrolytes especially when it is hot outside, can pose serious health problems for anyone, but older adults are at risk for dehydration.

 

WHY SENIORS ARE AT RISK

 

There are a few reasons in general and some specifically for those with a dementia that makes them more susceptible to fluid and electrolyte imbalances.


1. With age, our body’s ability to conserve water is reduced. This can make it more difficult to adapt to things like fluctuating temperatures.
2. Additionally, the sense of thirst diminishes with age. By the time someone feels thirsty, essential fluids could already be extremely low.
3. Certain medical conditions and medications can affect a senior’s ability to retain fluids
4. Individuals with dementia may forget to eat and drink, and in
5. more advanced stages may have difficulty swallowing
6. Drugs like diuretics, antihistamines, laxatives, antipsychotics and corticosteroids can cause frequent urination that depletes water and electrolytes.
7. Furthermore, seniors who experience incontinence often purposely refuse or limit fluids to avoid accidents.

 

If severe dehydration goes unchecked, it can cause seizures due to electrolyte imbalance, a reduction in the volume of blood in the body (hypovolemic shock), kidney failure, heat injuries, and even coma or death.

 

ENTICE THEM WITH A DRINK - NOT PURE WATER & GET AT THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE…

 

summery drinksIf your loved ones are like mine the thought of having to drink 6-8 cups of water every day is daunting and quite frankly mine just won’t!  We need to entice them with fun summery colorful drinks like the two I have here for you or popsicles, milkshakes and smoothies.  Something savory is also a great choice it may present more meal like, warm chicken, beef or vegetable broth.

 

How you serve beverages can have an effect on a loved one’s willingness and ability to drink them. Experimenting with different serving temperatures may make beverages more appealing. Individual preferences vary regarding the palatability of different temperatures. Serving a drink at the desired temperature will increase the likelihood it will be consumed.

 

USE PRETTY AND REMEMBERED DRINK WARE

 

Drinkware can be an important component as well. Someone with low vision might be able to see an opaque, brightly colored cup more easily and therefore drink from it more often. Particularly resistant seniors may find a beverage more appetizing if it is served in a pretty glass or with garnish. For example, try serving a healthy smoothie in an old-fashioned soda fountain glass with a piece of fresh fruit on the rim.

 

Sometimes specialized drinkware may be necessary for those with swallowing difficulties, tremors, arthritis, motor skill problems and muscular weakness. Cups with two handles, a no-spill lid, a built-in straw, or ergonomic features may simplify the process and prevent spills.

 

ADD HIGH WATER BASED FOODS TO THE DIET, EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS

 

Raw fruits and vegetables can pack a hydrating punch as well. For example, a small plate of cut vegetables, like celery sticks, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes and bell pepper slices served with a healthy dressing or hummus for dipping can be a nutrition- and fluid-filled snack. Use the list below to add foods to your loved one's diet that will help keep them hydrated.

 

SIGNS OF SEVERE DEHYDRATION

 

• Confusion
• Little or no urination
• Dark or amber-colored urine
• Dry skin that stays folded when pinched
• Irritability, dizziness, or confusion
• Low blood pressure
• Rapid breathing and heartbeat
• Weak pulse
• Cold hands and feet

 

Picking up on the more subtle, early signs that a senior need to up their fluid intake is crucial.

 

Keep in mind that thirst is not usually a helpful indicator, because a person who feels thirsty may already be dehydrated. Initial signs to look for include headache, constipation, muscle cramps, dry mouth and tongue, and sleepiness or lethargy. Urine color is another helpful indicator and should be clear or light yellow for someone who is properly hydrated.

 

If you suspect dehydration in an elderly loved one, you can check for a decrease in skin turgor by pulling up the skin on the back of the hand for a few seconds; if it does not return to normal almost immediately, the person is dehydrated.

 
 

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