Tips for helping seniors get enough fluids in warmer weather
Everyone needs water for countless physical reasons, from keeping joints moving to protecting organs. In hot weather, our bodies lose water more rapidly than usual and seniors are especially can be susceptible to the effects of dehydration. Senior adults have risk factors, such as a reduced sense of thirst and decreased kidney function, that can hinder the body’s ability to cope with warm temperatures or low hydration.
If you know a senior who shows signs of confusion, dry mouth, slurred speech, and altered behavior, especially in hot weather, you might mistake these as normal symptoms of age. But these signs might indicate the health-threatening effects of dehydration.
Studies show that even a two percent reduction in body water weight (only 3 pounds on a 150-pound person) can impair short-term memory, attention span, and visual-motor tracking.
For good health and optimal cognitive function during the summer months, stay well hydrated.
All fluids help. All fluids contribute to hydration, not just plain water. Tea, coffee, juices, milk, and soups add fluids—but not alcohol, which is severely dehydrating. The amount of caffeine in tea and coffee does not discount the fluid in them, even if they have a slight diuretic effect, says the National Research Council’s Food and Nutrition Board.
Get water from foods. Eat foods that naturally contain water. Research shows that only 70 to 80 percent of our daily hydration needs to come from water; 20 to 30 percent can come from foods. All whole fruits and vegetables contain water, but these contain the highest amounts:
- 97% water: Cucumbers
- 96% water: Celery
- 95% water: Tomatoes, radishes
- 93% water: Red, yellow, green bell peppers
- 92% water: Cauliflower, watermelon
- 91% water: Spinach, strawberries, broccoli
- 90% water: Grapefruit
Infuse water with natural flavors. Add slices of lemons, limes, oranges, berries, or cucumbers to pitchers of fresh water, and then refrigerate. You’ll have a refreshing, flavorful, natural beverage with no artificial sweeteners or preservatives.
Use a refillable water bottle. Avoid throwaway plastic water bottles that harm the environment. Of the 50 billion plastic water bottles Americans buy each year, 80 percent end up in landfills. Instead, buy a BPA-free refillable water bottle, and keep the bottle nearby so your senior is more likely to sip throughout the day. Also, using just one refillable bottle helps seniors keep track of daily fluid intake.
Remember to stay hydrated this summer!