I usually drink plenty of water with my meal, so does my husband, and we bother the wait staff asking for refills when we eat with his mom because the glasses are smaller than we are used to at only 8 oz. Yet when I observe the other folks around the table, I'm reminded about the challenges with drinking enough water and risk of dehydration as we age.
One of our usual dinner companions, who has no trouble eating strip steak and ice cream, struggles to drink an 8 oz. glass of water at each meal, and his wife and friends encourage him throughout the meal. They will sit until the bitter end, well after dessert has been cleared, till he downs the last drop. Another single gentleman, who clearly has a swallowing disorder, also seems to enjoy his food more than his water, rarely finishing one glass.
It's just a fact of life that we become more susceptible as we age. Each season brings its own challenges, and Summer is no exception. Intense sun and heat can compromise us in a variety of ways, and as mature adults who may also be parents, grandparents, and caregivers for aging loved ones, it's important that we take precautions to maintain our own wellness and protect the ones we love.
There are a number of reasons we become more susceptible to dehydration and the effects of heat exhaustion as we grow older:
- Our body's ability to conserve water lessens
- We don't recognize thirst as readily
- We don't adjust to temperature changes easily
The negative effects of dehydration can be serious, and surprisingly it is one of the top ten most frequent reasons why people on Medicare are admitted to the hospital. One way to tell if you or someone else is dehydrated is by checking the urine. Healthy hydrated people have urine that is very light in color and smell. The less hydrated, the darker yellow and stronger smelling the urine.
Creative ways to stay hydrated include drinking a variety of fluids, keeping in mind that our taste buds change with age. Add refreshing flavors to water. You can throw in fresh lemon, lime or orange slices, or try sugar-free powdered varieties like Crystal Light. Try sparkling water, plain or with flavor. Eat juicy fruits and vegetables. Even soups can add liquid to the diet. Keep a glass of water or water bottle within arms reach at all times.
During the hot months, be careful about leaving an older person in a car in high temperatures, even if they say they love the heat! Take breaks during activities outside when it's hot, and stay hydrated. To help when making those transitions from outside heat to inside air conditioning, there are great lightweight clothes, hats and jackets made with SPF materials that are breathable and protective for heat and sun that go nicely from outside to inside.
At the end of the day, like the old adage says, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." So just do your best, and enjoy the summer as safely as you can.
Here are some reference articles for more details:
Elderly Dehydration - A Place for Mom
Too Hot to Handle - well.blogs.nytimes
Protecting Senior Skin from the Summer Sun - Agingcare.com