Dehydration Can Be Deadly for Seniors

Dehydration Can Be Deadly for Seniors

As the weather gets warmer, it is important to make sure to drink enough fluids to stay hydrated. This is especially important if you are older or exercise outdoors. Staying hydrated is not just about quenching your thirst. For many people, especially seniors, it can prevent life-threatening complications and health issues.

According to Generations Healthcare, staying hydrated is crucial for older folks, especially since they have a diminished sense of thirst in the first place. Some medications and treatments such as laxatives, diuretics, and chemotherapy may trigger dehydration by causing a loss of water in the body.

“Dehydration can have serious side effects,” said Stephen Craig, administrator at Kearny Mesa Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in San Diego. “It can cause dizziness and weakness, which could lead to a dangerous fall.”

Experts recommend scheduling reminders throughout the day to ensure that you are getting enough fluids. Besides water, vary your fluids and make them more tantalizing by drinking smoothies made with fresh or frozen fruit, eating soups, and enjoying whole fruit.

According to the Mayo Clinic, while anyone can become dehydrated by not taking in enough fluids to allow your body to carry out its normal functions, children as well as seniors can be severely affected. With children, the most common cause of dehydration is vomiting and diarrhea.

The symptoms in adults include extreme thirst, dark-colored urine, fatigue, and dizziness. Sometimes people can become confused and disoriented by a lack of sufficient fluids. It is time to see a healthcare professional if the symptoms last longer than 24 hours, as per the Mayo Clinic.

As we get older, the body becomes less able to store fluids and the ability to conserve water is reduced. People who have diabetes may urinate more frequently leading to an excess loss of fluids. If you have a fever, or sweat profusely, this also can cause dehydration, say the experts at the Mayo Clinic.

Besides increasing the risk of falling, dehydration can cause heat cramps or potentially life-threating heatstroke. It can also damage the kidneys and cause urinary tract infections. When your body is dehydrated, the electrolyte balance of sodium and potassium is affected possibly leading to seizures or loss of consciousness.  

The simplest treatment for dehydration is to take in more fluids, preferably those that contain electrolytes such as sports drinks or coconut water. However, if the dehydration is severe, it should be treated by medical personnel who will deliver salt and fluids intravenously for a speedy recovery.

To prevent dehydration the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends about 15.5 cups of fluid daily for men and 11.5 cups for women.

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