By Pam Kovacs, Founder & Executive Director of Friends Place Adult Day Services in Richardson
During the winter months, people often don’t consider that dehydration is a true health threat. Throughout this colder time of year we often have raw, bitter weather with low humidity outdoors and furnaces running nonstop indoors, which is drying to our skin and bodies. With flu season in full force, unsettled stomachs and the inability to keep anything down can rapidly cause dehydration issues. Improper hydration can throw our electrolytes and minerals or medication levels out of balance, which is terribly dangerous. Often the signs of dehydration are thought to be a worsening of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, since they mimic many of the same symptoms.
Since many seniors (and especially those with dementia) have either a reduced or no sense of thirst, dehydration is one of the most frequent causese of hospitalization for those 65 and older. Dehydration will cause more serious problems if not treated promptly, some severe enough to cause death. This is an important issue that matters very much!
Common Signs & Symptoms of Dehydration:
- Persistent fatigue, lethargy and/or muscle weakness
- Nausea, poor intake of fluids — can’t keep anything down
- Forgetfulness, confusion
- Deep rapid breathing, increased heart rate
- Loss of normal skin elasticity — slow to return to position when pinched
- Decreased or no urine output
- Sunken eyes & dark circles
Ways to Avoid Dehydration:
- Offer & encourage water and/or juice at scheduled times throughout the day, 6-10 times depending on “successful” amounts
- Offer bottled water instead of a cup of water; sometimes it can make a difference. It's easy to add powdered flavoring to, also
- Encourage lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Serve salad or juice — fruit or vegetable — before meals
- Include foods in meal planning that are made with water, milk-puddings, Jello, soups
- Offer healthy snacks between meals — carrot/celery sticks, melon balls, etc.
- Remember other favorite or special treats that can be offered to help with hydration:
- Root beer floats, sherbet w/lemon lime carbonated beverages
- Banana shakes made w/fresh berries
- Applesauce, yogurt or frozen yogurt
- Popsicles, frozen fruit bars, sherbet or ice cream
Be sure to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy not only during the hot Texas summers, but the entire year round, by staying well hydrated.