Summer is fast approaching, and as the sun blazes and the temperature rises many of us are getting excited for beautiful warm weather, water sports, backyard barbecues and more.
But it’s no secret that summer in Australia also comes with dangers.
We’ve got to be focused on avoiding sunburn, and heat stroke as well as staying hydrated.
Hydration can be a challenge for anyone but for those among us who are a little older, keeping hydrated can be downright difficult. This is because normal changes that occur in your body as you age can put you at a greater risk of dehydration.
Keeping hydrated is important for helping seniors reduce their risk of developing the heat-related illnesses that seniors are more susceptible to, particularly in the summer months.
Why should I stay hydrated?
Water is so much more than just a refreshing thirst-quencher on a hot day. It’s essential for the inner workings of your brain and body. Your body needs water in all of its cells, organs and tissue. In fact, more than half of your body is made up of water.
Adequate hydration is essential for helping you to carry out many of your bodily functions.
From aiding your digestion and lubricating your joints to helping you regulate your temperature, water is involved in supporting the functioning of your vital organs including your heart, kidneys and brain.
Your body loses water through digestion, breathing and of course sweating. This is why it’s so important that you keep your hydration levels up by drinking and eating foods containing water.
In fact, making sure that you’re getting enough water is one of the easiest and best things you can do for your health.
Here are a few benefits of drinking enough water:
- Supports the functioning of your digestive system, reducing your risk of constipation.
- Helps to keep your electrolytes well-balanced.
- Helps to protect your brain (dehydration has been linked to confusion and impaired memory in seniors).
- Helps you to make saliva, which supports your oral health and prevents your mouth and throat from feeling dry.
- Contributes to better joint health and muscle function.
- Supports healthy skin which is less vulnerable to certain skin conditions.
- May contribute to the management of chronic conditions like diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease.
Why are seniors more prone to dehydration?
For seniors even simple tasks like gardening or going for a walk could result in a significant and quick loss of fluid, particularly in hot or humid weather. This is because older adults are more prone to dehydration thanks to several age-related changes.
As we age, it’s common to notice a decrease in appetite and thirst compared to our younger years. This reduced sensation of hunger and thirst means that even when our body requires water, we may not feel the urge to drink.
Also, our body composition changes as we age, which can reduce our ability to conserve water and further contribute to our risk of dehydration, particularly when faced with the dehydrating effects of the summer heat.
Finally, certain medications commonly prescribed in the senior years can have dehydration as a side effect, further increasing vulnerability.
What are the signs of dehydration?
Dehydration may affect you in many ways. It’s important to understand the signs of dehydration so that you can recognise the symptoms and take action early.
Common signs include:
- Dark-coloured urine and urinating less often.
- Weakness and fatigue.
- Dryness in your mouth, sometimes accompanied by a dry cough.
- Muscle cramps in your arms or legs.
- Flushed skin.
- Dizziness or reduced coordination, which may cause mobility difficulties.
- Confusion and decreased cognitive function.
- Dry skin and cracked lips.
- Fast heart rate.
- Low blood pressure.
Hydration tips for seniors
While the easiest fix is to just drink more water, we understand it’s not always so simple. Here are a few ideas to help you stay better hydrated during the warmer months:
- Make hydration a part of your routine- one of the simplest ways to remember to have a drink is to pair drinking with another habit. For example, you could have a glass of water by your bed to drink every morning as soon as you get up, with every meal, and before and after activities. You could also make a habit of carrying your water bottle with you and taking regular sips throughout your day, you may even like to set a timer to work as a reminder.
- Choose Hydrating Foods- There are several water-rich foods you can add to your meals to sneak a little more water into your day. You could try watermelon, strawberries, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, grapes or tomatoes. You might also enjoy soups, stews or broths as a snack or a side.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine- Unfortunately, alcohol and caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee can cause you to lose fluid by making you wee more. While it’s okay to enjoy these drinks in moderation, try reaching for other options like juice, milk or water instead.
- In-home carers- If you or someone you love is at particular risk of dehydration, particularly in the summer months, an in-home carer can play a crucial role in supporting you to stay hydrated and monitor for signs of dehydration.
How can Focused Health Care help?
Our Focused Health Care team is run by registered nurses who’ve trained our team to monitor for, and respond to signs of dehydration in our clients, particularly the more vulnerable.
Our carers understand the importance of hydration and are committed to monitoring your well-being at all times of the year but with a particular focus on your hydration during the summer months.
If you’d like to learn more about summer safety for seniors, check out our blog post “Summer Safety Tips for Seniors”.
*All information is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Focused Health Care can consult with you regarding your individual health needs.
Cleveland Clinic. (2023). Drink Up: The Connection Between Age and Dehydration. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/drink-up-dehydration-is-an-often-overlooked-health-risk-for-seniors/
Healthdirect. (2022). Drinking Water and Your Health. www.healthdirect.gov.au/drinking-water-and-your-health
myDr. (n.d.). Dehydration and Hot Weather. https://mydr.com.au/travel-health/dehydration-and-hot-weather/