While most people associate dehydration with the summer heat, winter cold can also be a time when people can suffer if there is not enough liquid intake. This is especially dangerous for seniors. The extreme cold weather can be very drying this time of year, so getting enough to drink is crucial for your elderly loved ones.
Dehydration and the Elderly
When people have aged, the brain is not as accurate when it comes to signaling for thirst as it was when it was younger. There is a school of thought that believes this miscommunication of the brain and the need for hydration contributes to weakened stomach muscles. When these muscles become weaker, they can expand more with less water, and this can lead to a sense of fullness. Although a person may feel full, more times than not, they are dehydrated.
How to Keep the Elderly Hydrated
One thing you will need to do is analyze just how much your loved one is taking in each day. If you are with them all day long, take note of each time they drink and how much. If you have a home health aide from a home healthcare agency, make sure he or she knows to notate this as well. After a few days of taking note of their level of hydration, you should have a good average as to how much more they need to have each day.
You may find that you need to schedule their hydration each day. Although they may feel full, you will need to ensure that they have enough to not become dehydrated. Once you know how much more liquid they need, aim to split that amount up throughout the day. Do not try to have them drink a large amount of liquid in one sitting, as it will eventually lead to frustration. Develop a routine that will prevent feelings of pressure. For instance, set out a glass of water for them to drink first thing in the morning. Encourage them to drink some herbal tea after lunch. Keep a large tumbler of water near them at all times for them to sip on throughout the day. These little sips can quickly add up to the proper amount of liquid they need daily.
They can also eat for hydration as well. There are a lot of delicious fruits and vegetables that are high in water content. Things like melon, grapefruit, tomatoes, and greens are a great way to help prevent dehydration. Best of all, these items are available in your grocery store all year long, so you should have no problem getting them to eat these items during the winter months.
It can sometimes be hard to get your elderly loved one to take in more than they feel they want. Be gentle and encouraging, not at all forceful. This way, they will feel independent and autonomous while you make sure they have all that they need.