Sitting out on the porch watching the world around them is something many of our senior loved ones enjoy ones the weather starts to warm up.
They could be looking at the birds, stray dogs or cats, cars driving by, neighbors’ activity, keeping an eye out for the mail delivery or simply reading the latest book or newspaper. Delight is found in passing the time this way, as they have done for years and as their parents or grandparents did.
We need to be vigilant of a danger that relaxing in the heat of summer — even doing nothing more than sitting on the porch — can pose for our aging loved ones.
Summertime is a good time to talk about the potential for dehydration in our senior loved ones.
Because more than half of our bodies are made up of water, it is vital that we provide an ongoing source of liquid so that our organs and cells have what they need to function properly and keep us healthy.
Signs of Dehydration
Our senior loved ones do not always hear their body telling them it is time to drink. They often don’t feel thirst. There are signs that we can observe in our senior loved ones that can alert us to the need for more water.
- Dry mouth or lips
- Flushed face or skin
- Increase in body temperature, heart rate and breathing
- Dark urine
- It has been suggested that short term dehydration can cause pain
Keep in mind those signs mean your senior loved one has been without water for too long already, so don’t delay in getting them a drink!
Why We Need Enough Water
Water helps our bodies function properly so that we have the energy that we need to stay active and be healthy.
Water helps to control our body temperature and blood pressure, carries oxygen and wastes, lubricates our joints and makes our membranes moist, including our eyes and mouth. We need water to make saliva.
We need to be aware of the amount of water our seniors drink each day and make them think about it. Many don’t want to drink for fear of needing to go to the bathroom too often or simply just don’t like to drink plain water. When they want a drink it might not be in reach and they don’t feel able to go to the kitchen or bathroom for a gulp.
Everybody needs a certain amount of water. Research has not been able to pinpoint exactly how much water each person should drink each day but here is a clever rule of thumb. For every 20 pounds of body weight, drink one cup of water (8 oz.). A 120 pound person should drink 6 glasses of water a day.
Naturally, the more active one is or time spent sweating (as in the summer sun), the more water replacement that is required.
Since too many senior adults are not able to use, don’t feel they can afford to use, or for some other reason are not using their air conditioners during the heat of the summer, they may need more water to replace what their body is using to regulate its own temperature.
Tips to Add Water to Your Day
Since drinking water is not always exciting to many people, there are other ways we can get the fluid that we need each day. Water should be the first choice and included in your senior loved one’s routine but here are some suggestions to get water in other ways.
- Drink a glass of water every time you use the bathroom
- Drink a glass of water when you take your medications
- Keep a water bottle or glass handy, perhaps near your favorite chair or porch rocker
- If you work outside or take a walk in the heat, drink some water upon your return
- Eat fresh fruits that are water-containing such as watermelon, grapes, peaches and other melons
- Add a popsicle to the afternoon porch party
- Add lemon, lime, cucumber, orange wedges and other flavorings to your water glass to jazz it up and relieve boredom
- Drink tonic or seltzer water to get a fizz
- Drink a glass of juice or a juice spritzer
- Add a glass of milk to a meal
- Start off the meal with a bowl of soup
- Use gelatin or yogurt as your dessert
- Use tea or decaf coffee as a meal beverage
- Include vegetables such as tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, lettuce and squash in your summer meals
Water Adds Up Across the Day
If you add up a day’s fluid intake like this, your senior loved one should have no problem getting the fluid needed each day.
3 meals = 3 glasses of water
1 medication time = 1 glass of water
2 fresh fruits = 1 glass of water
1 between meal glass of water = 1 glass of water
Bathroom breaks = 1 glass of water
Soup, popsicle, yogurt, vegetables = 1 glass of water
This does take thought and commitment for some seniors who are not in the habit of getting enough fluids. It bears saying again: once your senior feels thirst or exhibits the signs above they are already dehydrated.
Because being dehydrated can lead to falls and increasing confusion, as well as poor kidney function, kidney stones, and constipation, we need to help our senior loved ones stay ahead of this problem by including several sources and strategies to get enough fluid every day.
Summertime, with the heat and humidity that drains our water reserves, can add extra stress to our senior’s health. Getting enough fluid for some seniors is really a year round battle.
As family caregivers, we can help them develop habits that will keep them refreshed now in the summer sunshine but also all year long!