With the heat wave much of the country has been experiencing this summer, it reminds residents of Cedar Rapids and elsewhere how important it is to stay well-hydrated, especially those receiving palliative care.
Every member of the team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice is great at encouraging clients to take the right steps to live well, reduce health risks, and generally stay as safe as possible.
In many cases, all of these safety precautions can be aided simply by making sure someone is properly hydrated throughout the day.
Water is one of those substances that power our world. It fuels human and animal bodies. It has a role in powering machines, including cars. Plants love water, and if done properly water can be used to create energy, such as dams or nuclear power generators.
We all need plenty of water whether the temperature inside or outside is low or high. Water helps regulate our body temperature, and reduces the risk of dehydration which can cause various problems to the body.
In warmer weather or when doing physical activity, it can help cool us down, even if it’s just to take a break for a moment to catch our breath.
Certainly, water isn’t a cure-all for the heat of the summer: it still wouldn’t hurt to wear a hat and sunscreen and stay indoors or in a cool spot if possible.
But water does have all sorts of benefits, especially for seniors, who also need more of it.
For a long time, we were all led to believe that everyone was required to drink 6 glasses a day for optimal health, regardless of age, weight, or other factors.
While generally good advice, some people wondered if it was too much or not enough water. Others said they didn’t like the taste so much even if they understood its importance.
So other guidelines were released that clarified this quantity. It is now said that 6-8 glasses can be a good goal, but some people should have more due to their age or health conditions, their activity, or the current temperature where they are located.
Also, the recommendation can now include drinks that are water-based, which means teas, coffees, some juices, and more all can “count” for your daily hydration quota. Even beer can technically belong in this group because water is a key ingredient. However, drinking alcohol can cause its own challenges, so caution is advised.
WebMD does suggest that seniors still try to focus on having at least 6-8 glasses of water-based drinks a day because this will at least make it a priority and reduce overall health risks.
Some challenges seen by age is that some people, seniors especially, may not realize they’re feeling dehydrated until it’s already taking place. Their sense of thirst changes, so they could potentially already be at the stage where they start to feel light-headed, confused, having poor coordination, or tired.
One of the mysteries of how dehydration works is that it actually can make someone feel less thirsty and think they need to drink less.
Adding to this is that some medications may affect thirst and appetite, such as water pills or laxatives that make them go to the bathroom more often, meaning they have a hard time keeping their fluid levels up. They may be out in the sun longer than they realize, or they may have mobility challenges that can make it tough to go to a bathroom regularly or find one if they’re out doing activities or errands.
If dehydration goes on too long, it can begin to damage organs, increase the risk of falls, cause mental confusion, and more.
Solutions for hydration
Health experts want to make sure that everyone, especially seniors, remains able to stay hydrated and stay safe, whether it’s keeping track of hydration themselves or a caregiver or loved one reminding them to do so.
Some suggestions can include:
- Carry a glass or bottle of water or similar beverages with you wherever you go, so you can always be sipping throughout the day. This might be a more effective way to make sure you’re always drinking, rather than only doing so at meals or when you remember.
- Set a time or use a phone app to set alerts when it’s time to drink again. This could be every hour or even more often on warmer days or when you’re doing more physical activities.
- Look for opportunities to stay cool so it’s easier to stay hydrated. On hot days, stay inside in a cool place during the hotter parts of the day, and do any errands or outside activities earlier in the morning or later in the evening. This can reduce some of the risks of heat sensitivity where they may not realize they’re thirsty on an especially warm day.
- Drink more when you drink. Instead of having a sip of water when you take regular medication or vitamins, drink a full glass.
- Make drinking a habit. If you pass through the kitchen while walking to another room, stop for a glass of water. Some restaurants now don’t give water automatically, but you can still request it.