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What you Need to Know about Dehydration and your Aging Parent

Welcome back members and readers,

Dehydration can be a threat to the elderly at any time of the year, but in the summer, they are especially vulnerable.  Just last night my mother told me how she sweats a lot even when making a short trip to the store.  She admitted she forgets to drink more water now that it's hot outside.  And, as I was researching this article, I found out dehydration can cause muscle cramps, something my mother has been complaining about!

So, I want to provide a short list of why dehydration impacts the elderly more and also tips on how you can help your parent drink enough water.  Sounds like such a simple thing....drink more water.  But it truly can impact overall health.

Why does dehydration affect the elderly more?

  • A person with dementia may miss the body's cue for thirst and not even think to drink water.
  • Chronic illness, such as diabetes, and taking certain medications are risk factors.
  • Even the elderly in good health tend to underestimate how much water they need (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071217192400.htm)
  • An elderly person who is weak or tired may not have the energy to get up and get a glass of water.
  • Someone with incontinence problems may limit their water intake so they can prevent an accident.

Why is preventing dehydration important?

  • It can lead to confusion, fatigue, fainting, and unconsciousness.
  • It can cause kidney, bladder and bowel problems and even delirium.
  • Depending on illnesses and medications being taken, water is very important to flush any toxins out of the system.

What can you do to help your parent prevent dehydration?

  • Limit caffeine and alcohol.  
  • Encourage your parent to keep a glass or bottle of water nearby and sip on it.  If acceptable to his/her diet, maybe add a slice of lemon or lime.
  • Consume fruits and vegetables high in water content. Cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, grapes and watermelon are all very high in water content, and also provide a lot of other nutrients.
  • One of the most innovative ideas I read about was a "water club" initiated at a UK rest home.  "The care home is also seeing fewer falls, significant improvements in health, fewer GP call-outs, reductions in the use of laxatives and urinary infections, less agitation among dementia residents, and residents reporting better quality of sleep." www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/112365.php
  • Suggest your parent fill a container each morning with the daily amount of water to drink.  They can set a goal of drinking it all by bedtime.

If you've found creative ways to encourage your parent to get enough water, especially during the summer, please comment.We can all learn from each other's stories and insights. 

Dale...