For safe and active senior living during the hot season, here are some facts and tips about hydration:
Understand why you get thirsty and the importance of hydration
- People lose about 10 cups of fluids a day through exhaled air, perspiration and other bodily fluids.
- The body is likely to dehydrate during travel, especially on airplanes.
- Water helps the body keep a normal temperature and lubricates and cushions joints.
- Even a 1.5 percent water loss can result in decreased cognitive function, headaches and fatigue.
- The sensation of thirst decreases with age, so thirst can set in without a senior realizing it.
- Older persons have less water in their bodies and, therefore, need to drink plenty of water.
Take the following steps to remain well hydrated:
- Try these dehydration-defying fruits and vegetables: watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, grapefruit, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and mixed salad greens.
- Drink water, fruit juices, sports drinks, milk, tea, coffee and broth. Avoid high-protein and alcoholic drinks, which can lead to dehydration.
- Sip water-based liquids through the day to help the body meet its need for ongoing hydration.
- Seniors can try this guideline for daily water intake: their body weight in pounds divided by two. The result is the number of ounces of water to drink each day.
- Drink water even before exercising or going out into the sun to maintain hydration.
- Drink a whole glass of water when taking a pill as part of meeting hydration needs.
- Be sure that persons with dementia take in enough water, as they might forget to drink.
In addition to drinking plenty of hydrating fluids, seniors should dress lightly, wear hats, sunglasses and sunscreen, limit exposure to direct sun, and use air conditioners or electric fans.
While dehydration is a concern, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can lead to serious illness and death. If you observe signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke in anyone, call for emergency assistance. While you wait for help to arrive, guide the person to shade and continually refresh him all over with cool water.
-Hunter Bruton, Physician Liaison