By: Integrity Home Care + Hospice
If you haven’t learned by now, your mom was right about pretty much everything—including when she told you it was important to drink your water every day. Although it may not have ranked very high on your ‘must-do’ list growing up, there were plenty of legit reasons that she wanted it there.
As we get older, those reasons become even more important—so, if you find yourself in a situation as a caregiver to an older loved one who would benefit from an increase in hydration and just aren’t sure how to accomplish the task, this Integrity blog is for you!
If we don’t understand why something is important, it’ll never be important to us. Period. So, begin your ‘You Need More H2O!’ campaign by taking a moment to explain to your older loved one why it’s so crucial for them to stay hydrated.
You may point out that, right off the bat, they’re at a disadvantage because older adults have less water in their bodies due to normal body composition changes. Then, let them know what the stakes are: even in its mild state, dehydration can cause confusion, fatigue, loss of strength, reduced coordination and decreased cognitive function. In severe cases, dehydration can result in kidney damage, muscle damage, and even hypovolemic shock—a condition in which blood levels drop to such dangerous lows that the heart is unable to take-in and pump-out enough blood.
Sounds scary, right? It should. But when you explain that it can all be avoided with a few simple glasses of water, well—putting more effort into staying hydrated may just get a nice little upgrade on that ‘ol ‘must-do’ list.
You might think, “What’s the big issue, here? Water is refreshing. It’s not like I’m asking someone to puree liver and onions and drink it five times per day. What gives?” You’re not alone in wondering.
A perplexing phenomenon that has baffled researchers for decades is that our sense of thirst actually diminishes with age. So, while a glass of refreshing, ice-cold water may sound incredible to you, it doesn’t hold the same appeal for an older individual because they just don’t ‘feel’ as thirsty anymore—even when they need it the most. Luckily, there are several ways we can enhance plain ‘ol water for our older loved ones while keeping it healthy and beneficial.
You can start by experimenting with the addition of different low-calorie, pre-made flavor-packs, or even by infusing water with fresh chunks of fruit (or cucumber!). When soaked in water, fruit will flavor the water naturally without adding excessive calories or sugar. Check out these tasty (and beautiful) infused water recipes, along with some additional storage/creation tips here, and get your loved one involved as you make your next shopping list together.
While you’re making that list, don’t forget about adding water-dense foods like watermelon, cucumber and cantaloupe—eating these and other foods that have a composition of over 50% water will provide automatic hydration for the body (no blender required)!
Aside from those who prefer room-temperature water due to sensitive teeth or other oral concerns, keep in mind that the temperature of the drink you’re offering will likely be more desirable to most individuals if it’s the opposite of the temperature outside. On a hot summer day—think cold, refreshing water with sprigs of mint or slices of cucumber. But when it’s frigid outside, don’t offer your loved one a frigid drink. Instead, try simply warming a glass of water and adding a slice of lemon for a comforting, zesty approach to winter hydration or suggesting a mug of warm chicken broth for a comforting and satisfying way to increase liquid intake in the cold winter months.
Don’t forget—along with an increase in hydration comes an increase in those moments when nature calls. This is sometimes a sensitive subject for elderly individuals for whom getting to the restroom is already a difficult task. Asking them to do something (drinking more) that adds more of those challenging trips each day may play a part in any hesitancy present. Try to assess whether their mobility is hampered in a way that would cause additional trips to the restroom to be excessively difficult or time-consuming.
If you can catch these problems before they arise, you may be able to make small changes to their bathroom environments or routines that could make that particular event less of a chore throughout the day. And, if your assessment determines that an extra assistant would be best, give us a call—we’re always happy to discuss whether our services would be a good fit for you and your family.
Everyone’s bodies need enough water to survive and thrive—especially as we age. Unfortunately, consuming enough water to avoid dehydration is often overlooked in our older population, and can lead to very dangerous health situations. The good news is that with a little creativity, understanding and persistence, dehydration in our older loved ones can be highly preventable. Contact Integrity Home Care + Hospice with any questions you may have about keeping your older family members safe at home—wherever home may be. We can’t wait to hear from you.