If you are an older adult, you are vulnerable to dehydration. A number of physiological features of aging from decreased total body water to reduced muscle mass combine with environmental and disease-specific factors to increase overall risk.
Have a conversation with your doctor. Be honest about your regular fluid intake, and work with your physician to craft a plan for adequate hydration. Ask about any medications you may be taking that increase risk for dehydration. Talking with your doctor is especially important because there are some conditions that call for a person to limit or restrict fluids.
DRINK WATER! Know how much fluid you need to keep your body in balance, and make a plan to consistently reach your fluid intake goals. Human bodies are not able to store fluid for hydration, so it must be replaced each day. Although fluid needs are individual and multifactorial, the old recommendation of eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day is a good place to start.
• Drink a full glass of water with meals and medications.
• Keep a glass of water handy at all times and take frequent sips.
• Add flavor to water with lemon, cucumber or other fruit slices, or mint leaves.
• Not terribly fond of water? Supplement your intake with milk, fruit juice (be mindful, because store-bought juices are generally laden with sugar), teas, and broths.
Don’t rely on thirst. You should drink fluids throughout the day, even when you are not thirsty. Indeed, thirst is a symptom of dehydration; if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
Limit alcohol and caffeine intake. These are diuretics, which increase your urine output and cause dehydration more quickly. So if you’re going to indulge, be sure to follow up with water to even out the score.
Mind the weather. Avoid prolonged exposure to summer heat and humidity, as increased perspiration can lead quickly to dehydration. If you must be outdoors on a hot day, seek shade and be sure to increase your day’s water intake accordingly. Likewise, replace fluids lost during exercise.
Monitor your urine. Pay attention to what it looks like; If it is dark (like apple juice), drink more fluids. Pale yellow (like a post-it note) urine indicates good hydration status. Also note quantity and frequency.
Look out for risk factors, including: older age, increased perspiration (fever, exercise, hot weather), unusual fluid losses (vomiting, diarrhea), and illness (particularly those resulting in decreased food or fluid intake).
Signs & Symptoms of Dehydration:
o Dizziness or lightheadedness
o Dark or concentrated urine
o Decreased urination
o Rapid heart rate
o Decreased blood pressure
o Dry lips, mouth, or tongue
o Sunken or dry eyes
o Weight loss
o Weakness, trembling, lethargy, or confusion
Taryn Tindal, Director of Clinical Services