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Winter Hydration & the Elderly

Most of us think about the importance of staying hydrated during the hot summer months when the sun is beating down and the temperatures are high. It is equally imperative that we drink enough water during the colder months of the year, and especially so for the elderly population. The ingestion of enough water, whether through direct liquids or as contained in various foods, can help elderly persons stave off sickness during and stay healthy.

Water makes up 60% of our human bodies – imagine your body full of water from your feet until almost your shoulders – that is how much water we contain! Water is a huge part of our skin, bones, organs and muscles – without enough water, our bodies are not able to function properly. According to the USGS Water Science School, our brain and heart are composed of 73% water – think how difficult it must be for those vital organs to perform at an optimal level without enough water each day!

The elderly population is more at risk for dehydration for several reasons:

  • The bodies' ability to conserve water is reduced as a natural part of aging
  • The sense of thirst can diminish with to age
  • The internal regulation system of keeping fluids and electrolytes in balance no longer functions as well
  • Some medications can interfere with the ability to retain fluids by exacerbating dehydration or depleting water through frequent urination
  • Incontinence issues can make a senior less willing to drink fluids due to the fear of having an accident

During peak cold and flu season, adequate hydration can help boost your immune system, which is particularly important for the elderly population who are already more susceptible to sickness.When our cells are properly hydrated, our organs are able to function at an optimal level, which allows our immune system to also work best. Water is crucial to flushing out toxins and carries life-giving oxygen throughout our bodies. Without enough water, our kidneys cannot appropriately expel waste products and those toxins can build up which have an unhealthy effect on our immune system. Another way that water can help keep you healthy is by aiding in the production of lymph. Our bodies' immune system needs lymph to circulate white blood cells and necessary nutrients throughout the body needed to fight disease and infection. We cannot produce lymph without adequate water intake, so drinking enough fluids will boost the immune system.

For seniors who may be suffering from arthritis or other joint pain, drinking enough water can also help lubricate the joints and relieve some of the pain they may be experiencing. Adequate water intake can also help with headaches by carrying life-giving oxygen to the brain that can help relieve the pressure of migraines or tension headaches. During the winter months, the air outside is drier, too, so drinking more water can help keep skin and lips from getting overly dry or chapped.

It's important to know that while coffee and other caffeinated beverages may contain a lot of water, the caffeine and other components in those drinks can have an adverse effect on hydration. If you are a caregiver or have a loved one living in a skilled nursing facility like Heritage Health, there are lots of ways to ensure that seniors are receiving the appropriate amount of water for them. Every time medication is given, encourage the resident to drink an entire 8-ounce glass of water. Adding fruit or herbs to water can give it a different flavor that will make it more palatable to drink. Lots of fruits and vegetables like pears, strawberries and tomatoes contain high levels of water that contribute to the daily intake of fluid. If you have any concerns about your loved one's water consumption or potential dehydration, please talk to the nursing staff at Heritage Health. Visit our website here to learn more about our services and locations.

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Wednesday, June 19, 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.

 

Heritage Operations Group, is a separate and distinct legal entity from any and all other entities named or listed on this website.  Any information contained in this website does not constitute evidence of a relationship between Heritage Operations Group, or any other named or listed entity.

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