Remember being a kid in the summer, running around all day long in the sun on a freeze pop and a few sips straight from the garden hose? Most of us were not concerned with getting the right amount to drink. Now that we’ve aged, just thinking about that makes us want to pour a glass! We all know now that nothing can put a damper on enjoying a sunny day like dehydration! So let’s talk water.
What is dehydration?
Dehydration happens when you either use or lose too much of the fluid in your body. When too much fluid is lost, the body is unable to function the way it should. Sometimes this occurs from lack of intake, but oftentimes, it can happen from vomiting or diarrhea. We know, fun stuff, but this is why we’re talking about the “Elephant in the Room”!
- Dark-colored urine
- Dry skin or tongue
- Rapid heartbeat
- Decreased urine or sweat production
- Muscle cramps or weakness (which can contribute to falls)
Why is it dangerous?
Some symptoms of dehydration require immediate medical care. If you’re experiencing irritability or confusion, abnormal levels of sleepiness, diarrhea or vomiting for more than 24 hours, or black stools, or if you’re not able to keep fluids and foods down, please seek medical attention right away.
Dehydration can be dangerous for anyone, but it can be really dangerous for seniors and those with complex medical conditions. Older adults do not retain fluid in their bodies the same way that younger adults or children do, and with age, feeling thirsty can fade. By the time feelings of thirst set in, it can be too late, and dehydration may have already started. Dehydration can be a common cause of hospitalization in the elderly.
Dehydration can lead to serious conditions like heat stroke, heat cramps, urinary and kidney problems, seizures, and hypovolemic shock.
How can I stay hydrated?
While drinking water is usually the answer, it doesn’t have to be just plain old tap that can help us stay hydrated. Tea, fruit juices, and other drinks can help hydrate, too.
There are also many fun and colorful summer foods that help, like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, and grapefruit, that offer hydration. Dairy products like skim milk, plain yogurt, and cottage cheese can also help.
How do I know if I am hydrated?
This is where it gets tricky. We all used to think eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day would do the trick. Depending on your weight, age, and what activities you’re doing, eight may not cut it. Some medications can dehydrate you, too, so it’s best to do what is good for you individually.
An easy way to watch your hydration level is to monitor the color of your urine. If it’s clear, you’re probably in the clear! If you notice that your urine is amber-colored or dark, it’s time to take some major sips (or maybe head to the ER, depending on your other symptoms)!
How can I make hydration fun?
Get creative this summer and toss together a nice smoothie of fruits and coconut milk to give yourself a fun, colorful, and cool hydration boost! You can also stay hydrated by eating popsicles, shaved ice, freeze pops, and slushies!
Another idea is using a fun drink cup or water bottle. Something colorful or color-changing, or a cup that keeps your beverage cold for hours is an excellent idea. There are a variety of reusable water bottles out there too that have stickers, vibrant colors, or words of encouragement on the side to keep you sipping!
There are also some awesome products on the market for electrolyte additives to your daily drink. They can be powders or liquids, or candy-like. Jelly Hydration Drops look and taste just like candy but pack a punch of hydration! They were invented by the grandson of someone who suffered from dementia.
Those who experience Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are at an especially big risk for dehydration. They may not recognize thirst, be able to ask for a drink, or remember to drink water throughout the day. For those folks, we have got to get extra creative and offer colorful drinks, reminders or help to drink, and things they like to ensure they have proper fluid intake.
Should I avoid certain drinks?
While certain beverages are always fun for grilling and picnics, it’s best to limit drinks with caffeine and alcohol. Too many of those can contribute to dehydration. Stick to the lemonade, pack a nice electrolyte beverage in your bag, or pour up the old high-quality H2O when you’re out in the sun!
Extremely sugary drinks are not the best for us, so be mindful of those. If you’re trying to switch up your beverage, try tossing fresh fruit slices like lemon, lime, or cucumber into your water. There are several non-sugared seltzers on the market to keep your beverages interesting as well.
No matter how you serve it, we just kindly remind you to drink up this summer to avoid the dangers of dehydration. If you need more hydration ideas or support for your senior loved one, (independent living, assisted living, memory care, and adult day services) reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.