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Dehydration: A Common Winter Woe Among the Elderly

Most of us are aware that the heat of summer can pose a huge risk of dehydration for the elderly. As temperatures soar, our bodies work harder to keep us cool by sweating—and that's just one way we lose water. We also need water for bodily functions such as digestion, nutrient absorption and transportation, circulation, and body temperature maintenance.

But what about winter? Colder temperatures, less venturing outside, less activity in general…it would make you think that dehydration wouldn't be a concern. Right?

No. Not at all, and especially not among the elderly. Heritage Health has been providing care and comfort to seniors for more than 50 years and want to share this important information about winter hydration.

Our bodies are composed of primarily water—more than half, in fact. As we age, we lose muscle, where a lot of water is stored. That means an older person has less water in their body to begin with—so it's easier to get dehydrated. Water is still necessary for those other functions regardless of the temperature outside, making it extremely important for our elderly loved ones to stay hydrated.

Additionally, older adults tend to have other factors that increase the risk of becoming dehydrated:

  • They feel thirsty less often.
  • They may take medications that cause dehydration.
  • They may be less able physically to get up to get water throughout the day.
  • They may be concerned about incontinence issues, so they don't want to drink as much as they should.
  • They may have difficulty swallowing due to stroke or other diseases or conditions.
  • They may have little control of their ambient temperature—the warmer and drier the air, the more they need to drink.

Not only does dehydration make everything more difficult for our body to function properly, in a severe state, it can be deadly. Although older adults may not feel as thirsty as a younger person, other symptoms of dehydration to watch for include dizziness, headaches, nausea, confusion, and lack of mental acuity.

Here are a few ways to make sure elderly friends and family are getting enough water on a daily basis:

  • If their mouth and lips are dry, they need to drink more water.
  • If their urine is the color of lemonade, that's a good sign. Anything darker means they should drink more water.
  • Encourage them to drink with every snack and meal (and, if they are concerned about their weight, a glass of water before and after eating a meal will help them feel fuller and eat less!).
  • Medications should be taken as directed with an entire glass of water rather than just a few sips.
  • Provide them with a reusable water bottle—there are a million to choose from! Encourage them to take it wherever they go throughout their day. Some even come with carry straps to make it easier to take along.
  • Suggest wise beverage options—water, milk, or juice are good choices, while caffeinated or alcoholic beverages tend to dehydrate more than rehydrate.

Staying hydrated during the winter months is just as important as in the heat of summer, especially for the elderly. Stay hydrated and stay healthy! 

Heritage Health: Therapy & Senior Care provides skilled nursing care, therapy services, respite care, hospice care,pharmacy services and more to the senior population throughout Illinois. Visit our website today and find a location near you.

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Friday, November 22, 2019

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Heritage Operations Group is proud to provide the senior population in Illinois with rehabilitative therapy services, skilled nursing care, specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care, assisted and supportive living, independent living and pharmacy services.


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