Keeping the body well hydrated is a problem for many older adults. Dehydration, (not enough fluid) may cause the blood pressure to drop, and the person is at risk of falling. It may also cause poor coordination, loss of balance, confusion, disorientation, constipation and heart problems.
During hot weather, people tend to drink more to avoid becoming dehydrated, but this is a problem that can occur at any time. Besides hot weather, you may become dehydrated if you are taking water pills, (diuretics), blood pressure or heart medications, are on dialysis or have a medical condition such as diabetes.
The flu, a high temperature, constipation or a bout of diarrhea can cause dehydration. Some persons do not like to drink because they fear wetting accidents, lack access to bathroom facilities, are physically disabled or have memory problems. Some signs of dehydration are dry mouth, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, fainting, sunken eyes, and passing small amounts or no urine.
An easy test for dehydration is checking your urine. Normally urine is light yellow in color. Dark, concentrated urine is e an early warning sign of dehydration. Another test is pinching the skin on the back of your hand, abdomen or chest. The skin will form into a little tent which should return to normal within five to ten seconds. If the skin is wrinkled and remains in folds, this indicates dehydration.
Dehydration can be serious and life-threatening if not treated immediately. Some complications are seizures, brain swelling, low blood volume (hypovolemic shock), acute kidney failure, coma, and death.
Tips for Staying Hydrated
- Increase your fluid intake – to at least eight glasses of water daily.
- Eat fruit and vegetables with a high water content e.g.cucumbers, watermelons, celery
- Drink fat-free or skim milk
- Drink water before and during meals
- Try teas, herbal, iced, coffee – limit caffeine
- Try sports drinks – check for high calories, sugar, and sodium
- Coconut water – be aware of high sugar content
- Set up a hydration schedule
- Carry bottled water
- Add lemon or orange slices to water
- Limit diet sodas (high salt) and energy drinks(high sugar)
Harriette Barker, Ph. D, RN, CHC