Dehydration During Summer: Risks and Prevention for Older Adults

As we just experienced the summer solstice last week and the hot July 4th holiday is around the corner, it is crucial to pay attention to the hydration needs of our bodies, especially for older individuals. Dehydration during summer,  poses a significant risk to the health and well-being of seniors.  Prevention for older adults is critical.

Understanding Dehydration:

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in, leading to an imbalance in the body’s water and electrolyte levels. For older adults, the risk of dehydration is heightened due to various factors, including age-related changes in the body, chronic health conditions, medication side effects, and decreased thirst sensation.

Risk Factors for Dehydration in Older People:

  1. Age-related physiological changes: Older adults have a reduced capacity to retain water and may produce less saliva and feel less thirsty, leading to decreased fluid intake.
  2. Chronic health conditions: Older individuals often have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular problems that can increase the risk of dehydration.
  3. Medications: Many medications commonly prescribed to older adults, such as diuretics, blood pressure medications, and laxatives, can contribute to fluid loss.
  4. Heat sensitivity: Older adults may be more sensitive to heat due to a decreased ability to regulate body temperature. Exposure to high temperatures, especially during heatwaves, can cause excessive sweating and fluid loss.

Consequences of Dehydration:

Dehydration can have severe consequences for older individuals, including:

  1. Impaired cognitive function: Dehydration can affect cognitive abilities, leading to confusion, dizziness, and difficulties with concentration and memory.
  2. Increased risk of falls: Dehydration can contribute to muscle weakness and fatigue, increasing the risk of falls and related injuries.
  3. Worsening of chronic conditions: For those with existing chronic health conditions, dehydration can exacerbate symptoms and lead to complications.
  4. Kidney problems: Chronic dehydration may put a strain on the kidneys and increase the risk of urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and other kidney-related issues.

Prevention and Tips for Staying Hydrated:

  1. Drink plenty of fluids: Encourage older adults to drink fluids regularly, even if they don’t feel thirsty. Water is the best choice, but other hydrating options like herbal tea, fruit-infused water, and diluted fruit juices can be enjoyable alternatives. An idea is to provide a water bottle with time markers to help guide one to drink regularly.
  2. Set reminders: Older adults can benefit from setting reminders to drink fluids throughout the day, especially if they have difficulty remembering to drink on their own. Alexa, Siri, or another automated reminder can be set.
  3. Include hydrating foods: Incorporate foods with high water content, such as watermelon, cucumber, berries, and soups, into meals.
  4. Avoid or limit dehydrating substances: Encourage older adults to limit their intake of alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks.
  5. Dress appropriately: Loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in breathable fabrics can help regulate body temperature and reduce the risk of overheating.
  6. Seek shade and cool environments: During hot days, advise older adults to stay in shaded areas and well-ventilated spaces with air conditioning or fans to prevent overheating.

Hurley Elder Care Law’s on-staff care coordinators teach our clients and their families some simple ways to help stay healthy. We have seen many situations where older people end up in the ER due to dehydration, so it should not be taken lightly. Please call our office at 404-843-0121 for a complimentary consultation about your loved one’s elder law needs.

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