It might be October already, but that doesn’t mean we can stop worrying about dehydration or heat stroke. Even October has been known to see some pretty hot days in the Midwest, so now is not the time to slack off when it comes to monitoring for signs of dehydration in the older Americans in our lives.
Not only does water make up almost 2/3 of our total bodyweight, but having enough water is necessary for our bodies to do things like regulate our body temperature, maintain blood pressure, and eliminate waste. Water helps just about every aspect of our bodily functions run smoothly, and without it, things can go south very quickly, especially for older Americans.
Causes of Dehydration
While we might think of dehydration primarily as a problem caused by not drinking enough water (especially in hot weather, when we tend to lose a lot of water in the form of sweat), dehydration can have other causes that might not be as obvious. Certain medications can cause people to retain water weight, or to lose more water weight than normal, requiring them to drink more water to stay hydrated. If you’re a caregiver for an older American, ask their doctor if any of their medications include dehydration as a side effect.
Another common cause of dehydration among older Americans is that their sense of thirst can either diminish or disappear entirely, which means they lose the ability to recognize when they need more water.
Older Americans are also more likely to suffer from kidney problems, which can cause dehydration. The job of the kidneys is to process fluids and eliminate toxins from the body, but as we age, our kidneys often stop processing fluids as efficiently as they once did. This can lead to more trips to the bathroom to urinate, and if people aren’t aware that they need to be drinking more water to make up for it, they can quickly get dehydrated.
Recognize the Symptoms
One of the problems with dehydration is that its symptoms can vary widely, including some that can be attributed to other things, but some of the key symptoms of dehydration to be on the lookout for include:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Dry mouth
- Skin that is loose or doesn’t return to normal after pinching
- Decreased urination
- Muscle cramping
- Accelerated heart rate
- Reduced blood pressure
What to Do About Dehydration
If you’re a caregiver for an older American and you suspect they might be dehydrated, the good news is that most of the time the problem can be solved with a tall glass of water, but that might not always be the case. Regardless of whether the patient’s symptoms are mild or severe, dehydration is something that needs to be addressed right away. If the symptoms are severe, such as muscle cramps, and/or if the patient is unable to keep liquids down, you need to get them to a medical health professional immediately. A primary care physician should be qualified to handle the situation, but only if they can be seen immediately. If they are not readily available, you need to take your loved one to an emergency room so they can be treated right away.
One of the benefits we provide here at Stillwater Senior Living, in addition to helping our residents with their daily tasks, is making sure they’re getting enough water and taking whatever medications they need. If you’re a caregiver for an older American and you’re thinking about assisted living, reach out now so we can answer any questions you might have about the benefits of assisted living.