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Hydration is an important issue for both seniors and their caregivers especially during the summer months. Many people find it difficult to drink enough water or fluids which then increases their risk of dehydration. As people age, they may not feel the sensation of thirst or it may be too difficult for an individual to go to the bathroom due to coordination problems and/or dependence on others. Other reasons for dehydration in older adults include problems with kidney function, decline in cognitive skills, and side effects of certain medications including diuretics and laxatives. A senior may avoid drinking water or other fluids due to fear of bladder control. Caregivers and family members should be aware of warning signs and symptoms of dehydration. The signs may vary for each person, but may include weight loss, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, constipation, nausea, anorexia and decreased functional ability. Other individuals may feel weak and may experience trembling or confusion. Health concerns that may occur due to dehydration include urinary tract infections, pneumonia, pressure ulcers and confusion.
What can be done to encourage the consumption of fluids while being both sensitive and cognizant of these issues? It is helpful to find a drink that is enjoyed by the individual, caretaker and visitors. It is important to normalize activities and not make consuming liquids a chore. It is also important that the caregiver not ignore his or her health and realize that their hydration should be monitored, as well. Maybe share a healthy drink or a snack with a high water content such as cold soups, Jell-O, yogurt, etc.
Aim to make hydration a fun part of the day and not a chore. Try to incorporate healthy drinks and foods with liquids with activities including socialization. Fun activities involving liquids include making popsicles, eating watermelon and other refreshing summer treats. Stay well hydrated and have a healthy and happy summer!