Hydration in the Elderly: Dos and Don’ts

February 10, 2019by hcs0
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It is often said that staying well hydrated is important, but why? The average adult’s body consists of 50-65% water about 2/3 of which is contained in our intracellular fluid. Water plays a very important role in keeping our body functioning properly. Some of the roles that water carries out include: regulating body temperature; helping (as saliva) to metabolize protein and carbohydrates; acting as a shock absorber for the brain, spinal cord and internal organs; flushing waste and toxins from the body via urine; and carrying oxygen and nutrients to the cells.

Dehydration is caused when a person loses more fluid from their body than they take in. If untreated, severe dehydration can cause seizures due to an electrolyte imbalance, a reduction in the volume of blood in the body also known as hypovolemic shock, kidney failure, heat injuries, and even coma or death. Elderly people are particularly susceptible to dehydration.

What causes this susceptibility to dehydration in older people?

  • The ability of elderly people to overcome the effects of vomiting, diarrhoea and fever can be reduced.
  • Older people are often on multiple medications, some of which can cause more frequent urination leading to dehydration. Some of these medications include diuretics, antihistamines, laxatives, antipsychotics and corticosteroids
  • The sense of thirst decreases with age so many older people simply do not realise that they require more fluids.
  • Mobility difficulties and relying on others to provide fluids can constrain seniors from drinking frequently.
  • Urinary incontinence or needing to go to the toilet more frequently can cause some elderly people to purposely reduce their fluid intake.
  • With age, the capacity of kidneys to retain fluid decreases.

Symptoms of dehydration in older people include:

  • Reduced urine output
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Reduced or no sweat
  • Difficulty in walking.

How can we prevent dehydration in older people:

  • There is a general notion that drinking plenty of water helps to remain hydrated. However, our body is hydrated not only by water but also by other fluids or high fluid foods like fruits, soup and jelly. Offering a wide variety of fluids and high fluid foods can help increase the overall volume of fluid that an elderly person consumes.
  • Encourage visitors to share a beverage with their loved one while visiting.
  • Maintain a hydration program while tracking the impact of different foods on the patient. Keep providing adequate drinks not only after meals but in-between meals too.
  • Ensure that a variety of beverages are available, and offer smaller amounts more often rather than larger amounts less frequently.
  • Make sure that a beverage is always in reach of the elderly person at all times.
  • If you feel particular medications are resulting in dehydration, speak to the person’s doctor to see if there are alternative options available.

Hydrating alternatives:

If water is used for hydration, it is best to offer either warm or room temperature water. Cold water is more difficult to drink in higher volumes, contracts the stomach and makes digestion harder. It also makes nasal mucous thicker hindering normal respiration.

It is important that beverages offered other than water are healthy choices. Drinks such as cordial and soft drink are high in artificial colors, flavours, caffeine and sugar or artificial sweeteners. Fruit juice if consumed frequently also contributes a high amount of fructose or sugar to the diet. Drinks which can hydrate the body along with providing much-needed nutrients are thus needed.

One such healthy supplement is opting for herbal teas. They are a powerhouse of vital nutrients and anti-oxidants thus supplying the body with health giving benefits, helping to prevent cognitive decline and improve immune fuction while simultaneously preventing dehydration.

Using Health Hydration Station herbal teas

Health Hydration Station offers a combination of five different herbal teas made from a combination of natural herbs, flavouring and spices designed to address various areas of health and wellbeing. They are:

  • Morning blend, a combination of white and green tea, matcha, hibiscus and fruits, which enhances energy and reduces fatigue.
  • Day blend, a mix of a number of Chinese herbs including ginseng, gingkgo, and salvia, as well as fruits. It enhances alertness, working memory, focus and cognitive function in general. It reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and assists with neuro-protection.
  • All day blend, includes licorice, pomegranate, orange zest, and hibiscus, it boosts immunity by increasing antioxidant intake.
  • Afternoon blend, a combination of turmeric, ginger, peppermint, and cinnamon, it helps to improve digestion and gut health and relives nausea and stomach discomfort.
  • Night blend, a mixture of valerian, chamomile, lemon balm, cinnamon, and vanilla, it reduces stress and anxiety and aids rest and sleep.

These teas have pleasant flavours and provide a healthy alternative from water for elderly people, while offering a daily well-being tonic for the mind and body and addressing common health concerns of older people.

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