Dehydration is more common in the elderly than any other age bracket. There are several changes that happen in the body as your parent ages that may increase his risk of dehydration.
- A lower ability to feel thirsty. For most people, feeling thirsty is the first way they know the body needs water. However, because the thirst response becomes weaker with age, older adults may not know they need to drink.
- Less body fluid. As people age, the amount of fluid in their bodies decreases. This means there are fewer water reserves available for your parent’s body to use as he gets older.
- The kidneys don’t function as well. Kidney function can decline with age, causing more water to be lost through urination.
- Health conditions and medications. If your aging parent has an underlying health condition or takes certain medications, it may cause him to urinate more often, resulting in fluid loss.
As a caregiver, you know you’ll want to encourage your parent to stay hydrated, but what if he doesn’t like water? What if he balks each time you or his elderly care provider set a glass of water in front of him to drink? Luckily, there are other ways to increase hydration, so talk to him about taking advantage of these alternative sources of water to make sure he stays hydrated.
- Eat fruits with lots of water. It’s called watermelon for a reason. Watermelons are 92% water. But it’s not the only fruit high in water – tomatoes and strawberries have just as much water, if not more. And plenty of other fruits like pineapple and oranges also have lots of water.
- Don’t forget the veggies. Vegetables are also high in water – especially when eaten raw. Have your elderly care provider cut up plenty of cucumbers, carrots and celery to keep in the fridge for your parent to snack on when he’s hungry. Not only will he get the healthy nutrients from those vegetables, he’ll also get fluids to help prevent dehydration.
- Grab an iced coffee. While your parent shouldn’t look at getting all his daily hydration from coffee, coffee does not cause fluid loss like many other caffeinated beverages do so it does help hydrate. Combine it with milk and ice, and your parent can enjoy his coffee while getting some extra fluids.
- Add in some flavor enhancers. Maybe your parent just needs a bit of flavor with his water. Whether you purchase the little packets of flavored powder to add to his water or add in some cut up fruit, herbs, or vegetables (citrus fruits like lemons and lime are delicious, or try some cucumber or mint), if it helps him down a couple extra glasses of water a day, it’s worth the extra effort and cost.
- Enjoy some soup. Having a bowl of a broth-based soup can add some water to your parent’s diet. Soup also helps his body retain the water and avoid hydration because of the higher levels of sodium it usually has.
Your parent will start to feel better in many ways once he’s fully hydrated and may even come to a place where he looks forward to a nice cold glass of water.