Water is such an everyday resource that we rarely think about how very important it is to our health. But consider this: water makes up 95 percent of the human brain and just over 80 percent of our blood. In fact, your entire body is about 60 percent water — so staying hydrated is a necessity, especially for our beloved seniors.
Dehydration can have far more — and more serious — consequences than you might think. Believe it or not, dehydration is one of the biggest reasons adults over age 65 are hospitalized. That’s why it’s so important to help the important elders in your life stay hydrated.
How does water function in the body?
Beyond its obvious thirst-quenching benefits, water performs some extremely valuable tasks in the human body. For starters, water is a lubricant for the joints and for the digestive system. Too little water can cause your senior’s knees, ankles and other joints to ache. It may also cause constipation.
In the bloodstream, water aids circulation and helps regulate body temperature. Water also acts to flush toxins out of the body, keeping the kidneys and liver from becoming overly stressed. Without enough water, these toxins can build up, causing distressing headaches.
Why are seniors especially at risk of dehydration?
As the years pass, our bodies become less sensitive to hunger and thirst. Your loved one may not be drinking enough water because he or she simply doesn’t feel thirsty. And since most adults get about half of their water from foods and juices, your senior’s small appetite poses a problem as well. In addition to these natural body changes, many elderly folks are dealing with chronic health issues. They may be taking medications that make dehydration even more of a risk.
What are the signs of dehydration?
The symptoms of long-term dehydration may surprise you. They include general fatigue and lethargy, headaches and dizziness, aches and cramping in muscles and joints, feelings of confusion and disorientation, and unusually fast heartbeat or rapid breathing. It’s very easy to mistake these symptoms for other chronic problems. And if dehydration goes undetected, it can become even more serious — or even fatal.
How to help your senior stay hydrated
Dehydration can cause serious problems for your loved one. Luckily, it’s easy to avoid those problems! Simply help your elder to drink enough water every day. Here’s how:
- Keep a full glass of water handy at all times so it’s always available;
- Use sugar-free flavorings if your loved one prefers flavored water;
- Include water-filled fruits and vegetables like melons, berries, cucumbers and cauliflower in daily meals; and
- Avoid caffeinated beverages, as they are diuretics and can increase the risk of dehydration.
A few extra glasses of water every day just might be the key to a fuller, happier, healthier life for the ones you love most. It’s a small change that can deliver huge benefits — and that’s worth a toast! That’s a toast with a glass of water, of course.