Summer Dehydration and Seniors: What Adult Children Should Know

Summer is the season when most people spend a lot of time outdoors. As we move into the dog days of summer in most parts of the country, it is important to remember that older adults are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses than younger people. Before you and a senior loved one head outdoors, take a few minutes to learn more about dehydration and what increases your risk for it.

Dehydration and the Risk for Seniors

Older adults are prone to dehydration for a variety of reasons. One is that age-related changes can lessen a senior’s ability to sense that they are thirsty. When they don’t detect thirst, it’s easy to forget to drink often enough.

Another leading cause is that the aging body has a more difficult time adjusting to fluctuating temperatures, which are common during the summer. A senior may take longer to warm up or cool down.

Then there is the issue of sweating. It’s a sticky part of summer no one likes to think or talk about. When the body becomes too hot, it begins to sweat in an attempt to cool off. The result is a loss of fluid that contributes to dehydration.

Another closely related issue is that high humidity prevents sweat from evaporating and cooling the body. This causes an increased need for fluids. If fluids aren’t adequately replaced, a heat-related illness can occur. Some are more dangerous and require immediate medical intervention.

Ways to Stay Hydrated This Summer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has moved away from promoting specific guidelines, but you can find more information from them on daily liquids here. One note of caution is that while sodas, coffee, and tea technically count as fluids, most all of them contain caffeine. It has a diuretic effect on the body that leads to greater fluid loss.

Here are some suggestions for helping you and your senior loved one prevent dehydration:

  • Drink a glass of water, juice, or milk with every meal.
  • Instead of a few sips of water with medications or vitamins, drink a whole glass of water.
  • Carry a refillable water bottle or two with you throughout the day, especially if you are out walking or running errands.
  • If your older family member is forgetful or has memory loss, call them or set an alarm on their phone as a reminder to hydrate throughout the day.
  • Not everyone likes the taste of water. You can make it more appealing by adding lemon, lime, or berries. Colorful reusable straws might also help.
  • Amp up your hydration by working foods high in water content into your diet and encourage your seniors to do the same. Berries, greens, cucumber, tomatoes, melon, celery, bell peppers, and oranges are just a few to try.

Reducing fluid loss caused by perspiration is another step you can take to guard against dehydration. A few tips for preventing heavy perspiration are:

  • Wear breathable fabrics: Wearing clothing made of lightweight, breathable fabrics allows air to circulate better. That helps you stay cooler. Cotton and linen are usually good choices.
  • Time outings to avoid the heat: Plan your day so you and the senior can be inside during the hottest parts of the day and outside during typically cool hours. The sun is usually at its peak between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Run the air conditioning: If your senior loved one has a tight budget or is especially thrifty, remind them to use their air conditioning on hot days. If they don’t have air conditioning or it’s not in the budget to run it as much as needed, create a list of cool places they can go when it’s hot out. Those might include the local mall, coffee shop, senior center, or bookstore.

These tips can help you and your older family member stay hydrated and healthy during the hottest days of the year.

Indoor Exercise Suggestions for Seniors

Whether it’s because of weather that is too hot or too cold, exercising outdoors isn’t always an option. But engaging in regular fitness activities is an essential part of aging. That’s why it’s important to have a bad weather backup plan for exercising! Indoor Fitness Activities for Seniors is a good resource to read for more ideas.