Water is essential to our lives. Our bodies need to not only be refueled but also need to be hydrated. Getting older does not change the need we have for fluids to remain healthy.
Unfortunately, getting older for many means drinking less fluid than our bodies need. Elders tend not to want to drink much because it might mean more trips to the bathroom than they may want to make due to decreased mobility or the fear of falling on the way.
Aging can also lead to a reduced sensation of thirst so that our senior loved ones do not feel the need to drink enough fluids.
Many seniors also prefer warm beverages and tend to drink caffeinated fluids more often, which can actually work against them in the short run due to the diuretic properties of caffeine, especially if they’re not replacing fluid losses.
Older generations did not grow up with a bottle of water in their hands like many of our children, and even many of us, currently do. Drinking six to eight or more glasses of water is not intriguing to them.
Water – Why Do We Need It?
Our bodies are made up of water at all levels, beginning from our cells. Our tissues and organs need water to function properly. Actually, 60% of an adult’s body is composed of water!
- Water carries nutrients to the cells throughout our bodies.
- Water carries the waste from our blood out of our body through the kidneys.
- Water regulates our body temperature though sweating and absorbing excess heat generated when our cells work.
- Water lubricates our joints.
- Water helps our intestines process the food we eat and keep our bowels regular.
Yes, we need water! When we don’t drink and eat enough water our bodies do not function properly. Dehydration is the result. Seniors are more susceptible to dehydration due to age and chronic disease.
Our bodies naturally try to strike a balance between the amount of water we consume and the water we lose through urine, waste, sweat, and the air we breathe. We usually drink about 80% of the water we need and eat the other 20% from certain foods.
At times certain conditions can increase our need for fluids such as heat and humidity, illness including fever and diarrhea, burns, physical activity and trauma. We should be replacing the fluid we lose during our normal daily functioning or when our needs are increased. When we don’t, we become dehydrated.
Dehydration can lead to weakness, poor mental functioning, trouble maintaining appropriate body temperature, change in blood pressure and fluctuations in heart rate. Your senior may feel dizzy or weak, easily fatigue, have a headache, dry mouth or lips, dry or sunken eyes, dry and flaky skin, difficulty making urine, or their urine could be dark instead of light colored. If your senior complains of thirst, it may be too late and they are already dehydrated since seniors don’t always sense thirst.
Ask your senior’s doctor or pharmacist if there are medications they are taking than can increase their fluid losses such as diuretics or cause dry mouth. If so, you will want to encourage your senior to take more fluids throughout the day.
Strategies to Increase Water Intake
We need to encourage our seniors to increase their overall consumption of fluids using some of these suggestions. You may also want to discourage an excess intake of caffeinated beverages.
- Drink water flavored with citrus either lime, lemon or orange wedges. You can also purchase packets of dehydrated citrus that are very flavorful, easy to store, and calorie free.
- Use decaffeinated iced tea, hot tea and coffee. Try hot water with honey. Drink other beverages such as lemonade or Crystal Light flavored beverages to mix it up.
- Encourage fruit juice, milk and vegetable juices at meals instead of regular coffee. These choices also provide increased nutrition.
- Eat fresh fruits at meals or snacks especially those containing higher water content such as watermelons and grapes.
- Give gelatin, popsicles, sorbet and ices as treats.
- Include soup with meals, preferably lower sodium versions.
- Every time your senior uses the bathroom, get them to drink some water to replace the loss.
- Keep a pitcher in the refrigerator with the day’s allotment of water. You will know how much more is needed to get enough and see if your senior is drinking enough.
- Be sure your senior drinks an 8 ounce glass of water with medications.
Your senior will feel better if they are getting enough water each day and with some practice it will become a habit!