Sunday, December 19, 2010

Drinking Water & The Elderly

Why grandma and grandpa should drink more water

As we all know, water is essential to any human being, and it is even more important in frail people like babies, children, pregnant women, and the elderly. As we age, our bodies go through a lot of changes. And because we are not used to all these changes, most of us do not realize when it is time to adapt and change our lifestyle because of these changes.

When people get old, a lot of things happen in their bodies. Elderly people sometimes become less thirsty, and sometimes, the less they drink, the less they become thirsty. Because thirst is an early indicator of dehydration, elderly people sometimes cannot tell if they are indeed in need of water. Sometimes, elderly people can also confuse thirst with hunger. This makes them more prone to dehydration. In fact, some studies have shown that dehydration is one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization among older people.

Most elderly people also experience physiological and hormonal changes in their bodies that can make them dehydrated. Most old people are also on medication or supplements and sometimes these include diuretics that can actually contribute to dehydration because it makes them urinate more, leading to loss of fluids. Increased fiber intake also makes it more important for the elderly to drink more water and stay hydrated. Other inconveniences that can contribute to dehydration are difficulty swallowing and having problems telling their caretakers what they really need.

If kept unchecked, dehydration in the elderly can lead to numerous side effects. Elderly people can get anything mild like confusion, drowsiness, dry skin and migraines and something serious such as labored speech, sunken eyeballs, chronic pain, excess weight gain, slow metabolism, arthritis, hypertension, and worst of all, organ failure. All of these could be prevented or at least be helped by drinking ample amounts of water.

Because elderly people, especially those in care centers, have problems communicating their needs, caregivers should look for dehydration signs like constipation, dry mouth and dark yellow urine. If these signs are apparent, it should be quickly acted upon by giving a glass of water.

Water definitely has a lot of benefits for the elderly, and in even one center they saw that giving their patients more supply and more access to it improved not only their health but their demeanor as well. And don’t we all want our grandmas and grandpas to be happy?

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