Keeping The Elderly Hydrated - Being Creative

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posted by Ryan Whittington on March 28, 2011

As spring makes its slow crawl into our lives, I start to think about those warm days to come.  I am reminded of a conversation I normally have with my grandmother about drinking water and staying hydrated.

My grandmother is 88 and very set in her ways.  She has lived alone most of her life and in a second floor apartment for the last 23 years.  She stays very active and takes her regular one mile walk every day she can.  Living alone for that long, she has adopted the motto: "The dust can wait".

Her eating habits leave little to be desired.  One of her favorite lines is "Anything is good that I don't have to cook".  While she does regularly eat vegetables, I have noticed that more and more she reaches for the deserts and seems to be drinking less and less liquids.

Last time we were out to dinner and the waiter asked what we would like to drink and she chose a glass of wine.  Waiting for the wine, I poured myself a glass of water.  I asked her if she would like water as well and her comment was:  "Water is only good for running under bridges".

I knew that I was never going to get past a comment like that and I was never going to change her mind on the importance of drinking water. I knew I must change.

With a little research I found these helpful tips:

  • Encourage two or three servings of fruits and vegetables at every meal.  Fruits and vegetables contain over 75% of water as well as needed vitamins and minerals.  Using no salt is best but if that is the only way to make them taste better then less is better.
  • Crafty Water Breaks. If you see an opportunity to introduce water, like after a long walk or when sitting in the sun take an opportunity to offer water.  As they say "timing is everything".
  • Sparkling Water and Vegetable Juice. While substituting these liquids for soda and fruit juice may not taste quite as good, they can reduce spikes in blood sugar and unnecessary calories throughout the day.
  • Choose Salt Wisely. Believe it or not, the type of salt you use makes a difference.  Unrefined sea salt is rice in trace minerals and is lower in sodium than most table salt.

Senior citizens and the elderly are at greater risk for dehydration because their kidney function is often somewhat diminished. 

Signs of dehydration include:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Labored Speech
  • Sunken eyeballs

Effects of Dehydration Include:

  • loss of muscle tone
  • excess weight gain
  • slow metabolism
  • increased toxicity
  • organ failure

The Bottom Line

An average senior citizen requires approximately two quarts of fluids each and every day to maintain good health.  Without this water, the kidneys cannot excrete the minimum ten ounces of waste per day that is required.  Without this excretion, the waste builds up in the body, leading to kidney stones, while adding additional stress on the kidneys.  If a person is taking medicine that requires it to be taken with water, it is critical to do so.

As a caregiver or concerned friend or family member, it is important that you not try to change a person's behavior but to get creative.  The good news is that most effects of dehydration are preventable.

*As with all medical advice, a person should consult their physician for their individual situation.  This information is for informational purposes only.

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Caregiving and Health
  1. Amanda Wigner

    Amanda Wigner

    November 13, 2020

    What’s the most effective way to hydrate a bedridden elderly woman severely dehydrated lips an nasal cavity

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