Staying hydrated challenges older adults
Getting enough liquid and water to stay hydrated during Oklahoma's summer months is a challenge for anyone, but for the state's older residents, it's even more so.
"Older adults need an average of 6 to 8 cups of liquid a day," commented LaDonna Dunlop, a registered dietitian and the family and consumer sciences educator for the Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension Service. "But several of the factors related to the aging process can actually keep people from drinking as much as they should."
As people age, they may experience a decrease in their thirst sensation. Also, body water decreases with age, which makes becoming dehydrated even easier, and some medications can cause water loss, Dunlop explained.
Other deterrents include limited mobility in residents and even fear of incontinence, which may cause some people to cut down on their own fluid intake. People in wheelchairs or who are bedridden may also find it difficult to see to their own fluid intake, Dunlop said.
"We need to remember that fluid intake is not limited to plain water," Dunlop said. "Juice, milk, decaffeinated drinks, or even soup qualifies as liquid and can help people keep from becoming dehydrated."
Symptoms of dehydration include weakness, headaches, increased body temperature, increased breathing and pulse rate, dizziness or confusion. These symptoms can lead to other health risks as well, Dunlop said, and dehydrated older adults are at a higher risk of infections and pneumonia.
Dunlop advises older adults, or those helping care for them, to be sure that some sort of beverage is served with all meals, and snacks, as well as fluids, kept within easy reach and use.
"We need to remember that even though proper hydration is important for everyone, it is even more vital for our older residents," Dunlop cautioned.