A Senior’s Guide to Staying Hydrated
Your body depends on water for almost everything it does. In fact, it is made up of about 60% water. When your body’s supply of fluids begins to run low, it activates sensors in the brain which stimulate your thirst center located in the hypothalamus. You feel thirsty and you reach for a refreshing drink.
In a healthy young adult, this system works very well to keep you hydrated, and it is very rare that you can become dehydrated if you listen to your body and have adequate access to water.
But things can become much more complicated as you get older because of many factors. Your body may need more fluid if your blood sugar is too high, or if you have a high fever or an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea. Certain medications such as diuretics (water pills) may cause you to lose more water in your urine. And your kidneys may not be quite as good at regulating your fluids as they were 20 years ago.
If you have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, you are more likely to have memory issues or trouble making decisions. You may forget to drink throughout the day or not even recognize that you are thirsty. If you have arthritis or are weak and deconditioned, it may be harder to get up and get yourself a drink as often as you should, or you might not want to drink a lot for fear of having to get up and go to the bathroom if you have bladder control problems. A stroke or dryness in the mouth may cause you to have trouble swallowing.
Because of these and other challenges, older adults are more likely to face, seniors are up to 30% more likely to become dehydrated than someone who is younger.
It is also harder to tell when you are dehydrated as you get older because you may not feel thirsty or have other symptoms. You may only feel tired. But if the dehydration becomes worse, you may become confused, your urine may become dark and less frequent, or you may become dizzy or constipated. Get emergency medical help if you or your loved one has any of these signs of dehydration. You may need to have fluids replaced through an intravenous in the hospital.
The key to staying healthy is to prevent dehydration from happening. But first, check with your doctor to see how much fluids you should be getting each day.
- Make a schedule of when and how much you should be sipping throughout the day
- Use a timer or set reminders on your phone
- Keep a water bottle handy
- Limit water intake after dinner if night time accidents are a worry
- Eat foods that are high in water—like fruits, vegetables, soups, yogurt, Jell-O
- Watch your caffeine intake and avoid alcohol
- Dress up your water with a slice of citrus or a sprig of mint
Try to stay cool in the summer by staying in air conditioning during the hottest hours of the day. Take your walk or do your gardening early in the morning or after the sun has started to go down. Remember to take a water bottle with you outdoors. With a little planning, you can stay as hydrated and cool as a cucumber this summer.
Melinda Ratini, DO.
Dr. Melinda Ratini specializes in geriatric medicine and is board-certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Family Practitioners in Family Practice with a Certificate of Added Qualification in Geriatrics. She earned her medical degree from West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and completed a residency at the Delaware Valley Medical Center (Jefferson-Bucks).
Melinda Ratini, DO, MS is accepting new patients at 501 Bath Road, Suite 209A, Bristol, PA, 19007. Call to schedule an appointment for yourself or a loved one at (215) 785-9830.