Healthy Aging at Home Tips
There are a number of ways dehydration can increase the risk of falling of your elderly loved one, but since it has a more subtle and gradual effect on daily living compared with other more obvious or sudden changes in their health, it's crucial to monitor and manage.
Water is required for all functions in the body including;
regulating temperature (through sweating)
dissolving water soluble nutrients
maintaining blood pressure
eliminating bodily waste
regulating heart beat
Severe dehydration can lead to confusion, muscle weakness, urinary tract infection, pneumonia and even death. While individual needs vary depending on life-style, age and fitness levels, humans generally can't survive more than four days without water.
Causes of Dehydration in the Elderly
There are a number of reasons your loved one could be dehydrated.
Decreased thirst. The ability to sense thirst decreases as we age. This becomes more pronounced with age - often as a result of other listed causes
Medications. Often, seniors are on one or medications that either act as, or have the side effect of being, a diuretic - causing them to lose water through urination. Other medications may have the side effect of causing sweating.
Decreased kidney function. Kidney function decreases starting at about age 50 with less capability of conserving fluid, but noticeable symptoms don't tend to appear until after age 70.
Decreased muscle mass. Water makes up 75% of muscle weight, so with the loss of muscle mass as we age (unless we take measures), we lose that ability to store, and thus access water.
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
Your elderly loved one may not be able to notice if they are dehydrated. While some have a more indirect impact as fall risk factors, watch out for any of these signs or symptoms:
Inability to sweat or produce tears
Low blood pressure
Low urine output
Rapid heart beat
While other health issues may be involved in any one of these listed items, making sure your loved one is getting enough water is a simple way to determine in a reasonably short period of time whether these signs and symptoms are due to dehydration, or something else. Often, with regular water intake, many of these signs and symptoms are resolved, but if not, consult with their doctor right away.
More water in their diet helps to reduce the risk of falls
Monitoring your loved ones' water intake is key. Encourage them to eat regular meals that include nutrient and water-dense foods daily. A simple measure is to have them keep water handy to sip throughout the day, and to keep a log of how much they drink as a visual aid to remind them. Have their medications reviewed to see if some can be eliminated, reduced, or replaced with another prescription with less of the diuretic effect.
Next: Poor diet as a risk factor in falling
Water consumption is closely linked to diet and nutrient absorption. Find out in the next post how these directly relate to an increased risk for falling.
© Nancy Glover | Aging With Grace www.AgingwithGrace.ca
Do you need help with setting up a plan to ensure your parent or spouse is well nourished?
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Nancy Glover, a healthy aging advocate, mentors extraordinary women and men who have stepped into the challenging role of caring for their elderly spouse or parent by managing their well-being in the later stages of life. Blending first-hand expertise with practical step by step systems to support the needs, goals, and desires of the elderly spouse or parent, Nancy helps caregivers maneuver the complex and often challenging role with supportive advocacy and resources that equally focus on everyone’s well-being. Learn more about her at www.agingwithgrace.ca and sign up to receive timely information and strategies to empower caregivers and families in transition.