Staying hydrated, especially as it becomes warmer, is important for everyone. Insufficient consumption of fluids, especially water, can result in headaches, lethargy, urinary tract infections, kidney failure, digestive troubles, hallucinations and poor blood circulation.
But, did you know that the elderly population is at greater risk of dehydration? As our bodies age, our thirst-response mechanism declines. Exacerbating the problem is that some older people may take medications that act like diuretics, contributing to a greater fluid loss. In addition, elderly people may have limited mobility or may no longer be able to reach or hold a glass or cup or simply be unwilling to drink as they’ll be needing to use the bathroom more frequently.
Australian scientists working with the University of Texas researchers identified that a region of the brain – the mid cingulate cortex – is responsible for co-ordinating signals of thirst, such as a dry mouth, and found that it malfunctioned in elderly people. As a result, seniors are then more likely to underestimate their level of dehydration.
So, what are the warning signs that older people should be on the look-out for, to prevent dehydration? It’s important to look out for leg cramps, fatigue, a rough, dry or coated tongue, fever, weight loss, restlessness and agitation.
And, what can elderly people do to prevent dehydration? Aside from drinking more water throughout the day to achieve proper hydration, there are fruits and vegetables that can provide increased water content. Oranges, celery, carrots and watermelon are fruit and vegetables that can increase a person’s hydration. Soups, broths, herbal teas and flavoured water are also good sources of hydration.
According to familydoctor.org, if you are concerned that you are not drinking enough water, check your urine. If it is dark yellow or amber-coloured, it’s a sign of dehydration.
Aim to drink at least six times a day, and more in warmer weather. Tea, coffee, mineral water, soda water and reduced-fat milk can all count towards your fluid intake during the day, but water is always best.