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Hydration in Elders: More Than Just a Glass of Water

By Rita Miller-Huey  

(Page 1 of 2)

As we enter the warmer part of the year, it is more important than ever to drink enough fluids. This is particularly true for children and for persons 65 and older - which could be both the caregivers and their loved ones. Not drinking enough fluids can cause unwanted symptoms, complications from existing disease conditions and may account for many hospitalizations of our elders. Water and juices are the best; coffee, tea and colas with caffeine as well as alcoholic drinks cause the body to lose fluids and are recommended only in small amounts.
Elders are at risk for dehydration for many reasons:

Age related. There is less water in the older body, greater difficulty for the older kidney to maintain fluid balance and less thirst sensations in older folks in general.

Disease-related reasons for dehydration range from the complex to the simple.  Infections such as pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and urinary tract infections increase the need for fluids due to fevers and the overproduction of mucus. Some diseases, such as congestive heart failure, renal disease, stroke or other neurological disorders and diabetes, cause changes in the function of various hormones that regulate the fluid balance in the body. Also, there are acute reasons for dehydration such as prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, over-aggressive diuretic therapy and poor compliance to medication regimens.

Environmental reasons. A decrease in mobility for those with arthritis, diminished vision or confined to bed rest who cannot as easily meet their own needs. Those with diminished appetite or reluctance to bother others for something as simple as assistance in getting a sip of water are definitely at risk.

Medication reasons. May cause increased fluid losses through the kidneys. Diuretics, sedatives and laxatives are common, necessary drugs that require close attention to fluid intake. Other drugs and alcohol can cause the kidneys to work harder, and may damage them, making it harder to maintain fluid balance.


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