Even when living in an air-conditioned facility, outdoor heat and dehydration can be hidden risks for the elderly. That’s why it’s important for caregivers to prevent and recognize the signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion.
Elderly people are at heightened risk for these conditions due to the physical changes associated with aging. Dehydration in seniors is often caused partly from inadequate water intake, but it can also happen for other reasons including excessive sweating, diseases such as diabetes, or as a side effect of medication.
Aging itself actually makes people less aware of thirst and can lower the ability to regulate fluid balance. Sudden shifts in the body’s water balance can result in dehydration, and elderly people may not even realize they are dehydrated.
The potentially life-threatening consequences of untreated dehydration can include reduced or loss of consciousness, rapid but weak pulse, and lowered blood pressure.
Signs of dehydration to watch for include:
- Dryness of mouth
- Difficulty urinating or passing only small amounts of urine
- Dark or deep yellow urine
- Sleepiness or irritability
- Low blood pressure
- Cramping in limbs
- Crying but with few or no tears
- Severe cramping and muscle contractions in limbs, back, and stomach
- Bloated stomach
- Rapid but weak pulse
- Breathing faster than normal
If you see early signs of dehydration, offer an electrolyte-filled sports drink. But note that severe dehydration requires medical attention.
Staying hydrated also helps older people avoid constipation and have fewer falls. Doctors recommend drinking at least five 8-ounce glasses of water daily.
Caregivers should make sure older people always have water nearby and encourage frequent drinking in moderate amounts – not waiting until they feel thirsty. It’s also important for hydration to avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
Seniors are also at risk for heat stroke and need to be more careful of overheating as their bodies can’t adjust to high temperatures as well as younger bodies can. Forty percent of heat-related deaths in the U.S. were among people over 65, according to a University of Chicago Medical Center study.
Older adults should stay indoors and avoid strenuous activities in hot weather. Other tips include drinking plenty of cool water throughout the day, keeping the climate as cool as possible, and wearing layers of lightweight clothing so it’s easy to adjust to the temperature throughout the day by removing or adding layers.
The Lodge Lane community provides assisted living, respite care, and a secure Memory Care Neighborhood for those with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Each of the private apartments offer spacious, private bath with walk-in showers equipped with grab bars and emergency call alerts. The beautifully appointed common areas and outdoor patio space act as an extension of the resident’s apartment. The clinical team works closely with physicians, family and the resident to provide individualized quality care. Lodge Lane welcomes residents of all faiths while celebrating Jewish traditions, culture and values. Both kosher and non-kosher meal options are available in an elegant dining room. Kutz Senior Living Campus is home to both Lodge Lane Assisted Living & Memory Care along with Kutz Rehabilitation & Nursing. Together, the two buildings share 11 acres of beautifully sprawling grounds where seniors can receive short-term rehabilitation, skilled nursing, assisted living and memory care services.
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