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Preventing Dehydration in Seniors in the Summertime

By May 22, 2015Archives

Summer is almost here and that means hot weather. Even if you stay indoors, it’s hotter than normal and dehydration is a risk. This is especially important for the elderly who may not be able to do enough to take care of themselves.

Seniors may become dehydrated more easily than other adults because they may be unable to care for themselves. They may also have trouble recognizing that they are dehydrated, particularly in cases of dementia. In addition, seniors with diabetes or who are taking diuretics for high blood pressure may more easily become dehydrated.

Dehydration can produce symptoms that are similar to other diseases like dementia so it is important for caregivers to help the senior avoid dehydration.

Mild dehydration can be hard to detect but can rapidly progress to a more severe medical state. Symptoms of dehydration may include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth or swollen tongue
  • Weakness, dizziness or fainting
  • Heart palpitations, weak pulse or low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Flushing with dry skin
  • Inability to sweat
  • Dark urine
  • Decrease in urination
  • Skin “tenting” – skin does not return to normal position if mildly “pinched”
  • Any of these symptoms may indicate dehydration and may be cause for alarm. If possible, the elder should be encouraged to drink water and should be moved into a cool location. In some cases, a cool compress on the back of the neck may help. In severe cases, medical attention should be sought.

    The best way to avoid dehydration in seniors is to prevent it. Physical activity requiring exertion should be avoided during particularly hot periods and loose clothing should be encouraged. In addition, the senior should not be allowed to spend long periods of time in direct sun as sunburn may also increase the chance of dehydration in addition to other risks.

    He or she should be encouraged to drink several glasses of water each day, more if the environment is hot. Any liquid is better than none, though water is best and sugary drinks should be avoided, particularly if the senior has diabetes.

    If lack of air conditioning is an issue, community service organizations often provide fans or window air conditioning units to seniors in need at no charge. You may find these organizations by contacting a “Meals” organization or the local senior center.

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