By Kathryn Cherkas, MPH
Did you know that our brain’s ability to be aware of and respond to thirst decreases as we age? This is an added challenge for caregivers because the one for whom you provide care might not be able to communicate that he or she is thirsty.
While doing our best to make loved ones are drinking enough fluids, the naturally occurring reduction in thirst can make it so your loved one simply doesn’t feel like drinking. According to the Cleveland Clinic, we don’t know exactly why our feeling of thirst declines as we age. What we do know, however, is that dehydration is one of the most common reasons for hospital admission among seniors.
Having less water composition in their bodies, seniors need sufficient hydration for regulating body temperature, blood circulation and joint lubrication, to name a few essential functions. There is really one answer to all of this and it is keeping your loved one constantly hydrated, which is much easier said than done.
We know what you are going through and have a few tips to help you out:
- Keep water close by at all times
Make it as easy as possible for your loved one to serve themselves water. It is unlikely that your loved one can comfortably drink an 8oz glass of water in one sitting, so make hydration an all-day event! Give him or her an easy open (avoid tricky caps) water bottle that you regularly refill nearby at all times. Also, you can try keeping a lightweight pitcher of water and a cup near their favorite seat to make it quick and convenient to pour themselves a drink (if they are capable).
If your loved one is prone to wandering from bed at night, especially during warmer months, make sure they have easily accessible drinking water near their bed. Dehydration is often a catalyst for night wandering.
- Water isn’t the only hydrating fluid
You don’t have to drink only plain water to get hydrated. There are plenty of modifications and alternatives available, such as water enhancers (ie flavored drops), pre-flavored waters, serving a half water half juice mixture, or fruit-infused water.
You can also try serving foods* with a high water content, some of which are cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon, bell pepper, grapes, cantaloupe, oranges and apples.
*cut foods (grapes, tomatoes and apples especially) before serving them to your loved one to prevent potential choking risk
- Try fluids at different temperatures and textures
It might be perfect 75 degrees outside but your loved one may naturally run hotter or colder. Experiment with fluids at different temperature to see what your loved one best tolerates and enjoys. This also doesn’t just apply to teas and water, you can try warming up juices, making decaf iced coffee with cream, or adding plain soda water to make tea or juice bubbly (bubbles can be something to try adding as well, and you can tell them it’s ‘pop’)!
Take advantage of these warmer months and try some popsicles! Buy a reusable popsicle mold and pour in half juice/ half water mixes.
You can also try nice cold smoothies for your loved one, with fresh fruits and water blended being an easy favorite. Want a milkshake? Throw in some flavored Ensure!
- Try something savory
Sometimes your loved one might refuse a drink because they feel hunger and not thirst. In this case, you can try giving them a hearty vegetable juice (like V8 with a squeeze of lime for flavor), soup or broth. During warm weather, try a nice gazpacho (blended tomatoes with spices and water).
Make sure to check the labels of any soups or broths that you buy, opting for a low sodium broth or making a homemade broth if your loved one is on a low-sodium diet.
Keeping an elderly loved one hydrated is a task for every caregiver, but hopefully these tips and opening a discussion among one another, swapping ideas on what does and does not work, can help us combat dehydration together.
For input or recipe ideas, email us : firstname.lastname@example.org
**Please consult with your doctor to discuss the specific hydration needs of your loved one, as some medical conditions may have specific fluid needs