Avoiding dehydration important for all, especially seniors

Summer can be a fun and exciting time of the year filled with barbeques, pool parties and constant outdoor fun. It can be very rewarding to the body and mind as the sun provides important nutrients like Vitamin D and improves psychological well-being. Unfortunately, it can also be a dangerous time of the year, especially for older adults. 

For senior citizens, keeping cool – and hydrated – is more than just a matter of comfort; it can be a matter of life and death. Dehydration, or the loss of water and salts from the body, is one of the most common forms of heat disease. Other forms of heat disease include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. 

According to MaryAnne Rantala, resident services coordinator at Arden Courts Memory Care Community, seniors are at greater risk because thirst sensation, sweat production and the ability to concentrate urine decline with age. “Dehydration gives general signals that do not become pronounced until the body is approaching the danger point,” she said. “Once a person exhibits symptoms such as thirst, dry mouth or decreased urine output, the person is already in the moderate stages of dehydration.” 

If you are mildly dehydrated, simply drinking enough liquid and eating food high in salt will replace fluids and electrolytes. In addition, people with Alzheimer's disease often take anti-psychotic drugs and cholinesterase inhibitors which can cause the body to lose fluids. Many other medications such as diuretics, antidepressants, oxygen and blood pressure medications also add to the risk of body fluid loss.

Confusion or irritability, or a sudden increase in confusion or change in behavior in a person with Alzheimer's disease can be symptoms of dehydration. Fever, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating and high temperatures during the summer months are other common causes of dehydration.

This is the reason a number of precautions should be taken before participating in sunny outdoor fun this summer, including drinking plenty of fluids, even when you are not thirsty and asking your doctor how much time you should be spending in the sun each day.

Lisa Anthony

I am the Marketing Director of Arden Courts Memory Care Community in Westlake

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Volume 4, Issue 14, Posted 12:48 PM, 07.10.2012