Hydration Tips | How Much Water should Elderly drink a day?
We have all probably heard about the claim that suggests one should drink eight glasses of water each day. While there is barely any scientific evidence to back up this fact, what is true is that staying well hydrated throughout the day is essential for our overall health. The human body contains a lot of water, some of which is continually lost through sweat, urine, and diarrhea, among other means. This makes it important to replenish the body’s water level for it to function optimally. For seniors, the risk of dehydration is significantly higher due to factors such as chronic health problems, medications, and stress. Let’s begin by answering the question, “How much water should an elderly person drink a day?”.
How Much Water Should the Elderly Drink Each Day?
When it comes to the recommended daily water intake, many theories are floated around. According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the daily fluid intake should be about 3.7 liters for men and about 2.7 liters for women. Keep in mind that this fluid intake covers everything from food, beverages, and water. About a fifth of a person’s daily fluid intake comes from food, with the rest coming from drinks.
You have probably come across the eight-glasses-a-day theory regarding water intake. While not entirely correct, it is actually quite reasonable. However, depending on various factors, one might need more than eight glasses, while others will do just fine with less than eight glasses. Here are some of the common factors that may determine a person’s fluid intake.
Physical activities can make one sweat, resulting in a significant loss of water from the body. This implies that a physically active person will require more water per day than an inactive person. It is advisable to drink water before, during, and after a workout.
People living in hot areas generally need to drink more water than those in cold environments. When a person is exposed to heat, they lose a lot of water through sweating as the body tries to keep cool, making it necessary to drink more water. It is worth noting that dehydration occurs much more easily at high altitudes.
A person tends to lose more water when they have diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. This is why doctors recommend oral rehydration therapies for people with the aforementioned symptoms. Other medical conditions that might make it necessary to drink more water include urinary tract problems and bladder infections.
Generally, it is good to drink water every time you feel thirsty, with every meal, and between meals. Here are a few signs that will let you know your fluid intake is adequate.
- Your urine is light yellow or colorless
- Your doctor says your fluid intake is adequate
- You hardly feel thirsty
Tips for Seniors to Keep Hydrated
While drinking a sufficient amount of fluids per day sounds easy, it might actually be quite challenging, particularly for older adults. However, there are deliberate steps  to make it easier for a senior to attain their daily water intake requirement.
- Enhance accessibility: At times, it becomes much easier to drink water when it’s easily accessible. For example, you could place bottled water on tables, bedroom shelves, and kitchen counters. This makes it easy for anyone who feels slightly thirsty to have a drink.
- Use other beverages: While water is among the best options for keeping the body hydrated, it is not the only option. You can make things more interesting for seniors by incorporating other beverages such as broth, sparkling water, coffee, and juices.
- Food is super important: One commonly overlooked fact is that food is an important source of water. This is particularly true with fruits such as tomatoes, strawberries, popsicles, and watermelon. Make sure that these foods are a part of the senior’s diet.
- Go the tech way: If you are tech-savvy, you can hop onto the App Store or Play Store and download an app to help track a senior’s daily fluid intake. The daily results can then help you gauge whether or not the elderly person is meeting their required water consumption.
- Flavor it up: You can add fruits to your water pitcher to give the water a distinct flavor, making it more savory when drinking.
- Choose the best time: While fluid intake should be a continuous process that happens throughout the day, certain times of day are more beneficial than others. For example, taking water right after waking up helps activate one’s internal organs. A cup of water right before meals helps moisten the mouth and stomach in readiness for food, while it also replenishes what the body loses in perspiration during physical exercises.
For most people, drinking water is quite often a subconscious activity triggered by thirst. For older adults, however, drinking water becomes crucial in avoiding health-related complications. The above tips should help seniors stay hydrated.
Best Fluids to Prevent Dehydration
When most of us hear the word hydration, what probably comes to mind is water. However, while water is an excellent rehydration substance, it is not the only one. Here is a look at the best fluids  to prevent dehydration.
Water in Fruits
As mentioned earlier, fruits such as strawberries, watermelons, oranges, and pineapples, among others, have high water content. This makes them ideal foods to prevent dehydration. Unlike water, these fruits have the distinct advantage of tasting nice while providing the body with the required fluids for optimal function.
When one is thirsty, water is often enough to quench the thirst and rehydrate the body. However, in some instances, the body needs more than regular water, and this is where electrolyte drinks come in. These drinks contain electrolytes such as sodium and potassium that are vital for healthy body function. Electrolyte drinks are handy for people who lose water through exercises or living in high-temperature environments.
With all the fancy electrolyte drinks and tasty fruits available, water is still the most popular means to avoid dehydration. The fact that this drink is colorless, odorless, and tasteless also gives it a wide appeal. We can bet you have never heard someone say, “I don’t like water; its flavor particularly puts me off.”
The world is full of beverages that can help you prevent dehydration. Some of the ones that easily come to mind include milk, tea, coffee, fruit juices, milkshakes, smoothies, and sparkling water. While these beverages can never outdo regular water in terms of health benefits, they can just as easily stave off dehydration. It is worth noting that some seniors have issues consuming some of the aforementioned beverages due to medical reasons.
Signs of Dehydration in Elderly Adults
Here are some common dehydration symptoms  among older adults.
Changes on the Skin
When one is dehydrated, the skin loses its water content significantly. This water loss manifests in certain symptoms such as:
- Shrunken or overly tight skin
- Redness and skin flushing
- Flaking and roughness
- Cracked lips and skin
- Clammy and cold skin
Changes in Breath
When an older person is dehydrated, their mouth and tongue may feel dry and sticky. Occasionally, this might also come with bad breath. Since your body requires water to create saliva, the lack of water results in an overly dry mouth. If left unchecked, a dry mouth can evolve into more serious problems.
Changes in Urine
The color of urine is possibly one of the easily discernible telltale signs of dehydration. Dark-colored urine points to mild or severe dehydration. Ideally, urine should be colorless or lightly colored. A dehydrated elderly person might also urinate less than normal.
A dehydrated person is quite likely to become constipated. If the body does not have sufficient water, bowel movements become increasingly difficult. Since water is required to digest and move food along the digestive tract effectively, its lack results in constipation.
Thirsty is the body’s automatic response to dehydration. If you are feeling thirsty, that is your body communicating that you need some water intake. It is also worth noting that dehydrated people tend to feel hungrier than hydrated ones.
Lower Blood Pressure
When the body loses water, the blood volume can decrease significantly, resulting in low blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, dehydration is among the causes of low blood pressure. This makes it super important to keep your body hydrated and, subsequently, your blood pressure in check.
Scientific research shows that dehydration can leave you feeling fatigued even when you have been resting. This is possibly caused by the low blood pressure associated with dehydration. Keeping your body properly hydrated helps maintain optimal energy levels.
An elderly person can easily experience a headache, even from mild dehydration. Again, this headache is possibly linked to the decreased blood pressure associated with dehydration. Increased water intake helps take the blood volume to normal levels, raising the blood pressure to the ideal level.
Nausea and Fainting
The lack of adequate water in the body can result in dizziness and nausea. The latter can potentially lead to vomiting, which only worsens the water loss situation. Additionally, severe dehydration can result in fainting. If you faint or feel lightheaded after standing or sitting abruptly, you might be experiencing the effects of dehydration.
Causes of Dehydration in Elderly People
Numerous factors  can cause dehydration in elderly people. Here is a brief look at the most common ones.
Not Drinking Enough Water
While it might sound a bit elementary, failing to drink enough water is among the leading causes of dehydration. This could result from poor placement of water sources in the house or just a dislike for taking water.
Vomiting and Diarrhea
Vomiting and diarrhea can come with an immense loss of water over a very short time. If the vomiting or diarrhea is continuous, it can easily lead to dehydration within a very short time. To make it worse, these conditions can lead to rapid loss of electrolytes, a fact that exacerbates dehydration.
One can easily lose a lot of water from the body through sweating. Normally, excessive sweating results from high-intensity physical activities, living in high-temperature environments, or a wide range of medical conditions.
An older person with a high fever can easily become dehydrated. This situation is complicated further if the person has other water-loss problems such as diarrhea or vomiting.
Urination results in a direct loss of water from the body. This increase in urination may come from reduced temperatures, medical conditions, or medications such as diuretics.
Dehydration can be a serious problem, especially among the elderly. The multiple medication intake, poor water intake, and poor feeding can contribute to dehydration. However, this does not have to be the case. The tips and guidelines outlined above can help you or your loved one maintain optimal hydration and efficient body function.