Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Chicago
The Medical Consumer:
Keep Fluid Levels Topped Off

This summer, as many parts of the country experienced record heat waves, the tragic consequences for seniors of failing to stay cool and drink enough liquids made headlines.  But even though the temperature has dropped, seniors still need to be vigilant about drinking sufficient liquids.

That's because as people age, their need for water increases.  For instance, by our 70s, our kidneys filter waste about half as fast as they did when we were in our 30s.  Increased fluid intake is crucial for waste removal and also helps prevent kidney stones.  At the same time, many medications that seniors take for such conditions as high blood pressure and heart disease are diuretics, which remove fluids from the body.  These liquids need to be replenished.

Dehydration can cause a number of problems in older adults, including fatigue, minor headaches, constipation, and loss of appetite.  But it also can have more serious consequences.  According to a report from the Health Care Financing Administration, dehydration among the elderly is a serious and costly medical problem. It ranks as one of the most frequent diagnoses among hospitalized patients on Medicare.

Seniors don't drink as much as they should because they're simply not thirsty. By the time you reach 60, drinking in response to thirst will only provide 90 percent of the fluids you need, a situation that becomes more pronounced with age.

There are a number of suggestions that caregivers can make to encourage their loved one to drink the 64 ounces of water each day that nutritionists recommend:

If you fail to make any progress, ask your loved one's physician to reinforce your message that adequate hydration is fundamental to good health.  They will be happy to do so.

The bottom line: dehydration is not just a summertime concern for seniors.  By prevailing upon your loved one to drink enough liquid, you can help assure their health all year long.

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