Posted on July 1, 2014
Summer is just around the corner and as the temperatures rise, so should our awareness of DEHYDRATION in SENIORS. Although dehydration can occur in any season and in any climate, summer can bring it about quickly, catching many seniors and their caregivers off-guard.
- 31% of residents in Long-Term Care facilities are dehydrated
- 48% of adults admitted into the hospital through the emergency department had signs of dehydration in their lab results
- Dehydration is one of the 10 most frequent admitting diagnoses for Medicare hospitalization according the Health Care Finance Administration.
There are many reasons why seniors are particularly vulnerable to dehydration:
- The body is not as efficient in regulating fluid balance
- The body is not as efficient in regulating internal temperature
- The ability to sense thirst and hunger decrease
- Medications can cause excessive water loss through sweating and urine output
- Lack of access to adequate hydration, due to mobility or strength issues
Inadequate daily fluid intake can result in mild to severe dehydration, even death. In fact the average human being can only survive about 4 days without water. Dehydration in seniors can occur quickly with serious consequences.
Signs of Mild Dehydration:
- Dry mouth
- Sticky saliva
- Decreased urine output that is dark in color (should be clear to light yellow)
- Cramps in limbs
- General weakness
- Dizziness or increased dizziness upon standing
- Falling asleep easily during the day
- Little tear or sweat production
Signs of Moderate to Severe Dehydration
- All of the above AND
- Increased infections
- Dry, sunken eyes
- Skin that doesn’t snap back when lightly pinched (on arm)
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Severe cramps in legs, arms, back and stomach
- Bloated stomach
Long-term effects of moderate to severe dehydration
- Urinary tract infections
- Debilitating loss of strength and balance
- Debilitating confusion
- Kidney failure
Even with the stakes so high, many seniors find it difficult to get enough fluids every day. With a little planning, however, they can do it.
Here are a few tips to help everyone on their way to full hydration:
- Drink approximately 1/3 of your body weight each and every day. Example: If you weigh 150lbs, your minimum daily intake should be approximately 50 oz of fluids a day.
- Sip throughout the day, Don’t wait until you feel thirsty
- Avoid alcohol
- Limit caffeinated beverages. This doesn’t mean eliminate, you can still enjoy a morning coffee or tea. Moderation is key.
- Get a nice water bottle and note the total ounces with a Sharpie to measure intake.
- Foods with a lot of water count! Melons, vegetables, fruit juice and soups are full of water.
- Limit time spent in the sun. If you will be out for a prolonged outing, bring extra water or be sure to stop frequently for a beverage.
To start off your hydration program, weigh in and then monitor weight DAILY. A loss of 2% indicates mild dehydration; a loss of 4% indicates severe dehydration. Example: If you weigh 150 a loss of 3lbs is considered mild to moderate dehydration. Severe dehydration would be a loss of 5-6 pounds. In the case of severe dehydration, contact your doctor immediately and sip liquids high in salt and potassium such as fruit or vegetable juice, Gatorade and broth, to restore electrolyte balance as well as fluid levels.
Gabriela Brown, CSA
Constant Companions Home Care
This article is not intended to replace the advice of a physician.by