As we age, the balance between our need for water and our thirst for water shifts. In fact, the less water an older person drinks, the less thirsty they become, leaving them open to the
risk of serious dehydration and other complications.

Further, confusion over the difference between hunger and thirst intensifies over the years, making it all the more important to conscientiously drink adequate amounts of water throughout the day. One should consume at least one glass of water for every 20 pounds of body weight daily. That’s around 6 to 8 glasses for the average person.

Importance of hydration

Increased fibre intake among seniors, which is usually recommended for older people to aid with constipation and other health concerns, also increases the need for water. It is always important to be informed about any medication being taken as medication that is a diuretic will also require more fluids to be consumed daily to avoid dehydration.

The human body is at least 50% water, of which 4 to 6 pints are lost on a daily basis. Even bones are over 20% water! Just a 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic maths and reading, and difficulty staying focused. Inadequate water intake over time prevents normal bodily processes from occurring, leading to arthritis, sore muscles, heavy breathing, and a higher body temperature. This means that not drinking enough water over time can result in more severe effects at an older age. In the body, water acts as a solvent, coolant, lubricant, and transport agent. Virtually nothing takes place in the body without water playing a vital role. It is needed to regulate body temperature, carry nutrients, remove toxins and waste materials, and provide the medium in which all cellular reactions take place.

Symptoms of dehydration

  • Confusion
  • Chronic fatigue and lethargy
  • Drowsiness
  • Laboured speech
  • Dry mouth
  • Sunken skin around the eye area
  • Unable to urinate or pass only small amounts of dark or deep yellow urine

Older people are at particular risk of dehydration because their kidney function has reduced to some degree. Side effects for older people who do not drink enough water, however, extend far beyond dehydration. Over time, lack of water causes loss of muscle tone, excess weight gain, slow metabolism, and increased toxicity. With a build up of toxins the body has reduced ability to get rid of waste substances leading to possible kidney stones. Other negative effects include arthritis, dry skin, migraines, hypertension, digestive complications, persistent constipation and mental confusion.

Tips on how to stay hydrated

  • Keep a bottle of water with you during the day. To reduce costs, you can carry a reusable water bottle and fill it with tap water.
  • If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try adding a slice of lemon or lime to your drink.
  • When you are feeling hungry, drink water first. Thirst is often confused with hunger. True hunger will not be satisfied by drinking water. Drinking water may also contribute to a healthy weight-loss plan. Some research suggests that drinking water can help you feel full.
  • If you have trouble remembering to drink water, drink on a schedule. For example, drink water when you wake up, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and when you go to bed. Or, drink a small glass of water at the beginning of each hour.

At Greensleeves Care, every new resident is assessed as to their needs and level of care required. We pay particular attention to what residents like to eat and drink and when throughout
the day. Staff will observe if a resident is not eating and drinking regularly and address any problems. As well as daily monitoring, this is formally reviewed at the monthly Care Plan review meeting.

As all foods are partly composed of water, especially fruit and vegetables, we also ensure that our residents are offered a healthy, varied diet to aid hydration. So at Greensleeves Care,
residents eat healthily, stay hydrated, and get more out of life!