Dehydration happens when your body loses too much fluid. Although dehydration can occur at any age, older adults have an increased chance of becoming dehydrated and it’s one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization of seniors, says Statistics Canada.
Older adults are more likely to become dehydrated because their thirst response is blunted, their total body water decreases and their kidneys may not work well, according to the Registered Nurses’ Association of Canada. Certain medications, such as diuretics, also cause the kidneys to produce more urine and promote fluid loss. Chronic health conditions, like poorly controlled diabetes, can lead to water loss, according to Consumer Reports. Mobility problems, or a disease that makes it hard to swallow or hold a glass, may limit the ability of a person to obtain or drink enough fluids as well.
Dangers of dehydration
Dehydration is especially dangerous for older adults because a lack of sufficient fluid can cause temporary confusion and put the person at risk for falls, says Consumer Reports. Severe dehydration can lead to a rapid or irregular heart rate, low blood pressure, fainting, or a person may go into shock, which is a life-threatening condition.
Here are some tips to help you prevent dehydration:
1) Sip small amounts through the day. Sipping water regularly may be easier than drinking large amounts all at once. For variety, add lemon, lime, orange or cucumber slices to your water.
2) Drink before you feel thirsty. Because your sense of thirst may decrease with age, make it a habit to consume liquids before you feel thirsty.
3) Consume extra fluids in the heat. In hot and humid weather, you sweat more and need to take in more fluids to cover your losses.
4) Hydrate for physical activity. It’s best to drink fluids before, during and following physical activity, says Mayo Clinic.
5) Boost fluid intake during illness. Infections, fever, diarrhea and vomiting can cause a tremendous loss of water quickly, which needs to be replaced to avoid dehydration, says Mayo Clinic.
6) Recognize the signs. Watch for signs of dehydration such as dry lips and dry mouth, headache, dizziness and fainting, and dark yellow urine, says Dietitians of Canada. If you suspect dehydration, try drinking two to three full glasses of water over an hour or two, says Consumer Reports, and check with a healthcare professional.
7) Eat fluid-rich foods. Fruits, vegetables and soups have high water content and are good, tasty sources of fluids.