And is sparkling water hydrating? Here’s what we’ve learned, plus tips to make drinking water easier.
Aging brings physical changes that affect the body’s ability to cool down and stay hydrated. You depend on water; in fact, it makes up more than half of your total body weight. It is needed for temperature regulation, waste disposal, joint health, and more. Dehydration can occur if you don’t have enough water in your body to perform these tasks.
Medications can play a role
The elderly are more likely to suffer from dehydration due to diabetes or kidney disease. Certain medications can affect a person’s ability to stay hydrated, and older people often don’t sweat enough to cool their bodies on the hottest days. Poor circulation or reduced sweat production due to medication can also play a part in the problem. Even the loss of 2% of a person’s body weight has a negative effect on thermoregulation, physical activity and cognitive function. If an older person has balance or mobility issues, it may interfere with their ability (or willingness) to reach a water source.
“People with cognitive impairment are particularly susceptible to dehydration.”
Is it the taste?
“[Older persons] often have diminished taste receptors, which makes bland things even bland,” says Kevon Owen of Owen Clinic in Oklahoma. “If they don’t like the water initially, it’s hard to get them to drink it. Also, the inconvenience of going to the toilet more often is another thing that can make drinking water unattractive. .”
External factors, such as location, are also important to consider, says Michael Wasserman, Chair of Public Policy Committee, California Association of Long Term Care Medicine. “There’s no doubt that increased activity, living in a warmer climate, and lower humidity can increase fluid needs,” he says. “People with cognitive impairment are particularly susceptible to dehydration.”
How much liquid is enough?
Organizations cannot agree on a fixed answer to this question. The Mayo Clinic cites a recommendation from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that suggests 15.5 cups (124 oz) of fluids per day for men and 11.5 cups (92 oz) of fluids per day for women.
But be careful: this guideline includes all types of fluids from food and drink, as well as water. Many fitness and nutrition experts say that eight 8 oz. (64 oz) glasses of water a day is enough. So how do you know you are drink enough the water?
“It depends on the situation,” says Angel PlanellsSeattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“In general, a smaller person may need less than a larger person, and it can go from there. It depends on your kidneys, your cardiovascular system, the medications you take and more.”
“Urinary tract infections produce exponentially greater problems in older people,” says Owen. “But drinking more water would help fight them.”
Warning signs of dehydration
Plannells offers some tips for being aware of your hydration:
- Urine color. Is it light or dark yellow? “The lighter the better, but that doesn’t have to be clear,” says Plannells.
- Frequency of urination. You must replace the liquids that you have eliminated.
- Sweating/sweating. During the summer, drink more to compensate for the heat.
- Skin elasticity. Does your skin rebound quickly or does it take a while? A slow response could mean dehydration.
- bad breath.
- The thirst. Be aware, however, that older adults may have a limited ability to feel or communicate thirst.
- Choice of life and life situation. Dressing too warmly for summer heat, hot living conditions, overcrowding, and direct sun exposure can affect hydration.
Wasserman also advises caregivers to watch for these warning signs of insufficient water intake in patients:
- Dry mouth
Celery matters: making hydration appealing
How should a caregiver approach a patient who is not drinking enough water, or perhaps rebels against drinking water?
Here is some good news. Water is important, but fluid intake is essential to avoid dehydration. Milk, juice and soda are all good for fluid intake, Plannells says. “Food can also contribute to hydration. When you look at the word carbohydratesyou see the second half of the word is hydrate. So when we look at rice, potatoes, pasta, whole grains, and a number of fruits and vegetables, there will be some water absorbed from consuming certain foods. Think light and refreshing.”
Some useful hydrating foods are:
- oranges and grapefruit
- broths and soups
Plannells warns that caffeinated beverages, including energy drinks, contain a natural diuretic and could increase urine production (and fluids should be replaced).
“Cold soft drinks may be able to quench a person’s thirst more, which may lead to less water consumption later on,” he says.
Drinking alcohol can alter fluid levels in the body due to vasopressin, which is involved in regulating urine production.
“Seltzer [or sparkling] the water is tricky,” says Plannells. “A lot of people have been told it dehydrates, but that’s a myth. The mouthfeel may be different, but it’s just as hydrating.”
Encouraging Words Caregivers Can Offer
If you are caring for an older person, acknowledge their reasons for not wanting to drink water. Explain how important hydration is for optimal health and reassure them that they are not “a burden” or “fussy” when they have to use the bathroom more often, or when they ask for help. Find ways to manage hydration without disrupting their favorite routines.
“Schedule certain parts of the day to drink more to compensate for times when it’s less convenient to find a restroom,” Owen suggests. “Set goals for them to help them drink more water. Make it something you do together. Flavors and water are good, but some don’t like the artificial sweetness of flavors. Fruit is a good substitution.”
“Cold soft drinks may be able to quench a person’s thirst more, which may lead to less water consumption later on.”
In the case of someone with cognitive impairment, Wasserman says, the caregiver can use their imagination more and look for ways to encourage fluid intake.
“Drinking with the person can encourage them and ensure fluids are readily available,” he says.
Can you drink too much water?
According to Wasserman, excessive fluid intake can lead to hyponatremia, which can manifest as confusion, headache, nausea, and gait instability. To manage water intake, a caregiver can record the number of ounces or cups each day and note times or situations when a loved one is more likely to drink water or other liquids. Call 911 if you see symptoms of hyponatremia or dehydration.
Learn more about hot weather safety
These organizations provide resources for seniors and caregivers.
National Institute of Aging: Get free hot weather safety publications in English and Spanish from the website or call 1-800-222-2225.