Summer or winter, water plays a vital role in keeping us healthy. It lubricates joints and organs, helps regulate body temperature, maintains blood volume and aids circulation.
It transports nutrients and moves toxins and waste out of the body. It helps think clearly and can lift mood.
Without adequate water, you can develop fatigue, dizziness, constipation, mental confusion and headaches. These are symptoms of dehydration.
Seniors are at greater risk of dehydration than other age groups. Here’s why:
As you get older, the body’s thirst signals become weaker and less reliable. Medications such as diuretics can cause dehydration. Sometimes the interactions between different drugs can cause dehydration.
Older family members who suffer from mild cognitive impairment may not recognise their thirst signals or may forget to drink.
If someone is immobile and needs assistance with getting to the bathroom, they can be inclined to drink less in order to limit their bathroom trips. Alcohol and caffeine drinks are diuretic, so they can contribute to dehydration too.
Being ill with diarrhea or vomiting removes fluids from the body which need replacing. Hot weather also poses a problem as our bodies perspire more to regulate temperature.
Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, a dry mouth, headaches and light-headedness.
If ignored, dehydration can become severe with symptoms such as fainting, weakness, urinary tract infections and mental confusion. Severe dehydration is dangerous and requires medical attention.
The general guideline for daily water intake is two litres for women and 2.6 litres for men. However, if a health clinician has advised restricted fluids, it is important to follow their guidelines.
So, how do you encourage older family members to drink enough water?
First up, discuss the idea of doing a water intake log for a few days. This can be simple set of tally marks on the fridge or a notepad.
Each time they have a glass of water, they can put a tally mark. You could also do a water intake log for yourself.
Share the risks of dehydration and the benefits of drinking water, as described above, then brainstorm ideas about when more drinks of water could be included in the regular routine. Perhaps having a cold thermos of water by the lounge chair will help. Adding ice to water can give it an inviting tinkle on hot days.
Iced teas such as lemongrass tea or peppermint tea can be refreshing. These are not diuretic and do not need added sugar. A jug of iced tea can be made up at the end of the day and left in the fridge overnight.
Another idea is to link the desired habit of “drinking more water” to an established habit.
For instance, each time you wash the dishes, drink a glass of water with the reminder “I’m washing my insides too.”
If dehydrated, it’s best to have small sips of water often rather than one huge drink, until your symptoms ease.
Left unchecked, dehydration can lead to dizziness, falls and hospital admissions. If you have any concerns, seek medical advice.
Kendall Morton is Director of Home Care Assistance Sunshine Coast to Wide Bay. Call 5491 6888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org