Lack of water is the number one trigger of daytime fatigue in seniors. As we age, the balance between our need for water and our thirst for water shifts. In fact, the less water you drink, the less thirsty you become as an older adult, leaving you open to the risk of serious dehydration and other complications. Exercise and warm weather also call for additional water intake to replace fluids loss through excessive perspiration. Increasing your fiber intake, which is often recommend for seniors to aid with constipation and other health concerns, also increases the need for water. It is also important to be educated about the medications you are taking. Many medications require the need for more fluids to be consumed daily to avoid dehydration.“But I don’t feel thirsty!”
The hypothalamus center of the brain controls how a person perceives thirst. With age, you might lose some of your sense of thirst. Despite real fluid needs, many may not feel the sensation of a dry mouth or the natural thirst response. This may lead to resistance in drinking the proper amount of water needed to prevent dehydration.
“But I don’t feel like getting up!”
Whether or not you feel thirsty, some may feel it is too much effort to get up and get a drink of water and consequently go to the bathroom. Keep a glass of water handy next to your favorite sitting area or next to the bed to alleviate this problem. Or, look at it as an extra physical activity added to your day by taking a trip to the kitchen.
When one does not drink enough water either due to unavailability or by failing to receive the thirst signal from the brain, symptoms of dehydration can rapidly develop. Symptoms of dehydration may include but are not limited to:
- Thirst, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite
- Impaired physical coordination, dry mouth, reduction in urine
- Headache, difficulty in concentrating, sleepiness, irritability
- Dizziness, loss of balance, delirium, collapse
Also, older adults that do not drink enough water are more susceptible to urinary tract infections, pressure ulcers, pneumonia, and confusion.
To prevent dehydration, it is recommended that one should consume at least one cup of water for every 20 pounds of body weight daily, that’s around 6-8 glasses for the average person.
Other clever ways to drink or consume enough water:
- Use a closed container with a straw
- Plenty of high water content foods such as soups, Jell-O, yogurt, cottage cheese, and pudding
- Fruits and vegetables are a great alternative to drinking more water. Vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, lettuce, and celery are all about 90-99% water.