(HealthNewsDigest.com) - Now that summer is officially here, we want to address the important topic of hydration in older adults. Seniors are among the most at-risk groups for dehydration, one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization after the age 65. Seniors have a greater risk of dehydration for many reasons, including:
Age. As we age, our kidneys become less efficient at conserving fluids, our sense of thirst weakens and we are less able to adjust to changes in temperature.
Health Conditions. Common conditions in older adults like pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and urinary tract infections increase the need for fluids due to fevers and the overproduction of mucus.
Mobility Issues. Some seniors who experience mobility issues due to arthritis, vision loss or other conditions may feel uncomfortable asking others for help getting a drink.
Medication Side Effects. Some medications like diuretics, sedatives and laxatives can cause increased fluid loss.
Dehydration occurs when our bodies lose more fluids, mostly water, and thus essential salts, than we take in, interfering with bodily functions. It can result from severe sweating, extreme heat, vomiting, diarrhea or as a side effect of some medications. Severe dehydration can become life threatening because there may no longer be enough fluid in the body to carry blood to the organs. Signs and symptoms of dehydration can be virtually identical to those characteristic of dementia like Alzheimer's disease. Symptoms range from minor to severe and include:
Muscle weakness or cramps
Deep, rapid breathing
Increased heart rate
Concentrated, dark yellow urine
Skin that lacks its normal elasticity and sags back into position slowly when pinched up into a fold
Decreased or absent urine output
Decreased tears when crying
Inability to sweat
Excessive loss of fluid through vomiting, urinating, stools or sweating
If your loved one has any of these symptoms, and they persist for two to three days, call a doctor immediately. If left untreated, dehydration can quickly cause severe health problems, even death.To prevent dehydration in older adults, make sure they are drinking enough liquid. Seniors should drink at least 64 ounces of fluids daily. Water is the best option for staying hydrated. If your loved one dislikes plain water, try adding fruit like lemons or limes for boosted flavor. Try to limit caffeinated beverages like coffee as they cause frequent urination and promote fluid loss. Note that water is found in many fruits and vegetables like melons, berries, apples, oranges, peaches, lettuce, cucumbers, celery and cauliflower, so including them in your loved one's daily diet will help him or her stay hydrated. Keep water readily available, especially if you are caring for someone with mobility problems. If you plan to exercise or are spending time outside during high temperatures, be sure your loved one drinks plenty of water before, during and after activity. Remember that it's important for you to stay hydrated as well!