WELLNESS SPOTLIGHT: Seniors and dehydration

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As summer arrives, it is important for everyone to stay safe from the sun and heat, and look out for dehydration.  
Certain characteristics of aging cause seniors to be more susceptible to dehydration, and medications can make it worse. Medications that cause sweating, or are diuretics, result in water loss. As people age, their senses of thirst and their appetites decrease, and diminished kidney function also comes with age.

When a senior is dehydrated, the effects can be disastrous. For instance, dehydration can cause a urinary tract infection (UTI). Common symptoms of UTIs include cloudy urine, a frequent urge to urinate and night sweats. However, in senior adults, UTIs can cause erratic behaviors, falling, hallucinations and confusion. This is why the symptoms of a UTI can sometimes be confused with the symptoms of certain neurologic disorders such as dementia or a stroke.

Seniors who have dementia are less likely to consume enough water throughout the day. They may forget to drink water or just not be thirsty.  Keeping an eye on their fluid intake and reminding them to drink water are ways to help prevent them from becoming dehydrated.

If your senior is experiencing confusion, muscle weakness, dizziness or irritability, they may be dehydrated. Other signs to look out for include fever, disorientation, UTIs, dry skin and poor elasticity in the skin.

There are many simple ways to help make sure a senior stays hydrated. Limit your senior’s outdoor activities in the heat of the day and instead, help them find indoor activities to stay occupied. When the weather gets severely warm, you could check on your loved ones. Keep hydrating beverages and foods readily accessible for your senior. Some high fluid foods are soups, applesauce, yogurt, grapes and carrots. 

If you suspect dehydration in a senior, it is critical that you consult their physician and begin rehydrating them with water and other hydrating drinks as soon as possible.

Marie E. Littrell is the Administrator of Park View Meadows, assisted living by Americare, in Murfreesboro. She can be reached at 615.907.5800 or murf@americareusa.net

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