Everyone knows that it’s important to stay hydrated. But it is especially important for seniors. Research shows that seniors are far more likely to experience adverse health effects from insufficient levels of fluid than younger adults. Unfortunately, seniors are also much more susceptible to dehydration. Age related changes make it more difficult for older people’s bodies to retain water. Seniors have on average, 10% less fluid in their bodies compared to younger adults.
Here are 5 reasons why it’s especially important to make sure seniors stay hydrated:
1. Illnesses and medical conditions — Older people are more likely to have certain medical conditions and illnesses that can contribute to poor water retention and dehydration such as influenza, high blood sugar and digestive problems.
2. Medications – Many medications taken by seniors are diuretics and cause increased fluid loss. These include medications for high blood pressure, kidney, liver and heart disease.
3. Decreased renal function – As we age, our kidneys begin to decline and become less sensitive to anti-diuretic hormone – a hormone that plays a key role in controlling the body’s water balance.
4. Increased inconvenience of urinating — Seniors suffering from urinary incontinence, weak bladders and frequent urination are more reluctant to drink large amounts of fluid. In addition,, as seniors lose mobility and it becomes more difficult for them to get up and go to the bathroom, they are less inclined to drink fluids.
5. Our bodies’ thirst-response mechanisms decline as we grow older – Studies show that the mid-cingulate cortex, the region of the brain that is responsible for detecting dehydration and controlling thirst levels, becomes less active with age. As a result, seniors are more likely to underestimate their level of dehydration.
Dehydration is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization among people over 65. 67% of people are hospitalized for dehydration are over 75. Caregivers can help prevent their aging loved ones from becoming a victim of dehydration by encouraging them to drink plenty of water and frequently check for symptoms.