Elderly Can be Vulnerable to Dehydration in Summer Heat

With summer shutterstock_672625648.jpgtemperatures continuing to sizzle, staying hydrated becomes more difficult than usual. For older people, maintaining proper hydration can be even more challenging.

The elderly are often more susceptible to dehydration because the ability to recognize thirst decreases after about age 50, and the ability of kidneys to regulate the body’s water supply also diminishes, Lawrence Armstrong of the University of Connecticut Human Performance Laboratory told AARP.org.

Other causes of dehydration among seniors include some medications such as diuretics and antihistamines, and people with bladder control problems often drink less. Additionally, the importance of hydration—particularly when sweating because of physical exertion—is much more widely known than it was, say, 30 years ago. In other words, many elderly people haven’t been conditioned to worry about hydration.

Signs of dehydration in seniors may include:

  • Dark urine or low urine output
  • Muscle cramps
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty walking
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Inability to sweat
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation

An elderly loved one is particularly susceptible to dehydration if illness has caused them to vomit or have diarrhea.

Preventing dehydration in seniors should include drinking lots of fluids throughout the day, not only with meals; eating healthy foods with a high water content such as fruits, vegetables, and soups; and education about the importance of drinking fluids even when they are not thirsty—keeping a water bottle next to the bed or favorite chair is an option.

If you suspect a loved one is showing severe signs of dehydration after sickness or strenuous activity in the heat, seek medical care immediately or head to the emergency room, and have them start drinking water or a sports drink right away. Check the license status of a doctor or physician by visiting the Medical Board of California website at www.mbc.ca.gov.

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