Drink Plenty of Water is Important

As we move into summer, many of us are thinking about vacations and beach weather. With temperatures regularly reaching into the mid 90’s in many parts of the country, people are looking for the cooling relief of shade, air conditioned homes, swimming pools, and the beach. However, the heat of summer can bring trouble to our elderly population. Age and physical frailty can expose seniors to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and possible heat stroke.

You’ve probably heard your mother say “drink lots of water”. Now, we need to remind our elders with the same message. Many, many seniors fall into the bad habit of minimal water intake. And living alone with no home care staff to provide cues and reminders leaves seniors vulnerable to dehydration.

In a simple definition, dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body through normal perspiration and urine is greater than the amount being ingested through water intake and other fluids. On a normal day, a person has to drink a significant amount of water to replace normal, routine loss. On a steamy, hot day, this is even more important. If you remember that 75% of your body weight is made up of water, you realize that adequate fluid replenishment is essential.

Dehydration occurs because there is too much water lost or not enough water taken in. Many times, dehydration is a combination of both.

Keeping Your House Cool

Our seniors (and also young children) are most at risk because of poor temperature regulation systems. When I visit my parents, I am amazed at how warm the house temperature is. Yes, many seniors prefer warmth and a warm environment. But in a house with no air flow, or living alone, an at-risk elder can get too hot, and too lethargic, to put on a fan or to drink another bottle of water. During heat waves, our homecare staff tries to keep our elderly clients comfortable and hydrated while at home. Sometimes a check-in phone call can help remind seniors to stay safe and replenish fluids.

Dehydration due to the weather is a preventable condition. Keep the house cool by pulling down the window shades which are in direct sunlight. If possible, activities should not be scheduled in the heat of the day. A morning walk is best before the sun becomes too strong. Adequate fluids should be available, and cooler, shaded areas should be used if possible.

Be Alert to Signs of Sickness

Our aging parents and community elders should be monitored to make certain they are safe. Sickness, fever, or infection can be worsened in the hot summer months due to lack of water intake. For seniors with diabetes, elevated blood sugar levels cause sugar to spill into the urine and water then follows, which may cause significant dehydration. Be alert to seniors who frequently urinate and/or have excessive thirst. These may be early symptoms of diabetes.

Also, an elder with diarrhea or an upset stomach causing vomiting may lose excessive amounts of water. Diarrhea is the most common reason for a person to lose excess amounts of water. Intense nausea -with or without vomiting – can cause problems associated with dehydration because a senior (or anyone, for that matter) may be unable to tolerate liquids.