Summer provides seniors in Michigan more opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities. But it also increases their risk of life-threatening dehydration. Older adults are already prone to dehydration in large part because age-related changes weaken their ability to sense when they are thirsty and to easily adjust to changes in temperature. Summer’s heat and humidity add to that threat. Both can lead to serious complications and even death. When a senior loved one is too hot, they lose fluid through perspiration. Added humidity prevents sweat from evaporating and cooling the body, further increasing the need for fluids.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that adults of all ages consume 48-64 ounces of liquid each day. This includes fruit and vegetable juices, soups, and milk. Sodas, coffee and tea do count toward that total, however, medical professionals usually don’t recommend them because of the added sugar, calories and caffeine.
Here are some ideas for making sure your senior loved one gets adequate fluids year-round:
- Always provide a beverage with meals. If the person in your care chooses caffeinated coffee or tea, insist they include a small glass of water or juice to counteract the diuretic affects.
- Urge them to drink a full glass of water when taking daily medications. A phone call reminder at medication times might be necessary.
- Schedule hydration into their daily routine. For instance, if they watch a particular television program each day, prompt them to get a glass of water or juice before it begins. If they exercise, ask them to drink an 8-ounce glass of water before and after.
- Encourage your senior to drink throughout the day rather than waiting until they are thirsty. Remember, if an older adult is thirsty, they are likely already dehydrated. You might try designating a specific cup, glass or water bottle for drinking water and challenging them to finish it and refill it two-to-three times throughout the day.
- Dress up their drinks. Add fresh lemon slices, other fruits or even mint sprigs to water for a refreshing change. You can also use a water infuser to create a homemade fruity water beverage. Offer sparkling seltzers and flavored waters, which are available in the water aisle of the grocery store. A colorful straw can ensure your senior drinks more quickly.
- Provide access to plenty of water-rich fruits and veggies. Drinking isn’t the only way to stay hydrated. Melon, grapefruit, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, spinach, squash and broccoli are all high in water content. Offer them with meals and as snacks. Raw is best, as cooking removes water.
You can also reduce fluid loss through perspiration by helping your senior loved one stay cool.
- Make sure they dress in lightweight, breathable clothing. Cotton is ideal.
- Encourage them to stay in an air-conditioned building on hot days.
- Older adults should avoid direct sunlight. Staying indoors or in the shade between 11am and 4pm is best.
We hope these tips will help you keep your senior hydrated and safe this summer and throughout the year.