Keeping Hydrated

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Summer is almost here! While enjoying warmer temperatures and outdoor venues, remember to drink plenty of water. The need to keep hydrated is more important for older people than for the general population for two reasons:

  • Our body composition is about 70% water. However, as we age, that percentage decreases, making it more likely that elders will become dehydrated
  • People’s sensitivity to thirst declines over time so they will not detect the body’s signals that it is thirsty.

Symptoms of Dehydration

If you become dehydrated, you may develop a headache, become dizzy, or become uninterested in food. If dehydration is not detected and corrected, people may develop kidney stones, low blood pressure, or seizures. One key indicator that is specific to hydration is the color of urine. Dark urine is an urgent signal to start fluids at once.  For those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, it is especially important to monitor fluids as they may not be able to tell you when they are thirsty, nor will they be aware of the need to take fluids, even when they don’t feel the need.

How to Stay Hydrated

There is no one approach to staying well hydrated. Some people do best by drinking a glass of water before meals or before doing specific activities. Others find it easier to gently hydrate throughout the day. Experts differ on how much water a person should drink each day. Some recommend 8 glasses per day, others think that 5 8 ounce glasses of fluid per day is fine for most seniors.

Here are some good pointers, no matter what approach you take for yourself or for a loved one:

  • Keep a glass of water or favorite drink nearby so that it is easy to keep drinking
  • Add citrus slices or cucumber to a pitcher of water and chill it; its mild taste makes it more appealing to some than plain water
  • Be aware that caffeine (teas, coffee and colas) and alcohol dehydrate you, so limit these drinks, and add more fluid to your day to compensate for them when you do have them
  • Limit fruit juices and sugary drinks; they will increase the acidity in your stomach and add a lot of calories to your diet
  • Eat popsicles on warm days
  • Increase juicy fruits in your diet, especially melons.
  • Make sure to drink more fluids before and after exercising
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