Hot summer days bring nostalgic images of lemonade stands and picnics. The reality of living in Florida? Running from A/C to A/C and planning outings early in the morning or post afternoon thunderstorms. Dehydration is also a reality, more so for seniors than any other time of year. As we age our body is less able to perceive thirst and to regulate temperature. Many common medications increase water loss. Add our reluctance to increase trips to the bathroom, especially at night, and it’s easy to see why studies estimate over a third of seniors are chronically dehydrated. The increase in temperatures over the summer and the lack of adequate A/C pushes many into the “danger zone” of urinary tract infections, increased fall risk, dizziness, irritability, and fatigue.
What can we do to avoid dehydration? The easy answer is to increase water intake. Caring for many seniors over the years we know it isn’t always that easy. Not a water drinker? Milk and orange juice count and may stay in the system longer than water. Try flavor drops, there are many all-natural versions on the market, making water a little tastier. (Sorry, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages don’t count!) Take advantage of summer produce. Watermelon has a high-water content, as do many fruits. Tomatoes, zucchini, and squash are great high-water veggies. Create a reminder system to make sure you have gotten your daily recommend intake.
What is recommended? Consult with your doctor. Men and women have different needs, medications factor in, and individual requirements vary. For instance, my father increased his intake to 32 oz. a day. The result was a decrease in light-headedness and fatigue with better kidney function. Shortly after he ended up in the hospital (unrelated) and to our surprise they had to give lots of fluids. As a result, his doctor increased him to 60 oz. This was too much, negatively affecting his electrolytes. The doctor backed it down to 40 oz. and that seems to be his sweet spot. What’s yours? It’s hot out there. Hydrate!