News articles will report heat waves across the nation this summer. We’ll also read about elders who die because they had no cooling in their homes. No one knew they had utilities turned off for non-payment, or they had physical or mental limitations preventing them from paying the bill. Alert neighbors and relatives need to check on vulnerable elderly to prevent such disasters.
How can seniors become dehydrated?
Sickness can bring on dehydration from flu, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and bowel disorders which move fluids through the body too fast. Dehydration can be caused, also, if seniors are on dialysis, or can’t communicate due to Alzheimer’s or stroke. Many seniors don’t drink enough liquids during the day because of the inability to control their bladders (incontinence), or physically can’t hold a glass, get up from a chair, exhaust themselves getting to the bathroom, or have too much pain to walk.
What other factors can increase the risk of problems with dehydration?
Medicines like antihistamines, prednisone, blood pressure prescriptions, diuretics, and those used for psychiatric, organ transplant, and cancer treatment can interfere with the aging body’s ability to fight infection. Alcohol and smoking could also increase risk of dehydration. Certain diseases can increase the risk of problems with dehydration. Addison’s, cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, gallbladder, kidney liver and heart disease, HIV, hyperthyroidism, pancreatitus, ulcers and gastritis can make elders susceptible by changing the way their body gets rid of heat. Working in the yard or exercising can cause rapid over-sweating and loss of body fluids. Even obesity can contribute to dehydration because the overweight have less blood flow to the skin, heat is held in due to the insulated layer of fat tissue, and there is more body mass to cool. Wear one layer of lightweight, light-colored clothing when outdoors.
What are the signs of dehydration?
According to WebMD, early symptoms to watch for in seniors include: dry mouth and sticky saliva; reduced urine output and dark yellow urine and listlessness or irritation.
How can seniors prevent dehydration?
Drink plenty of water or hydrating drinks before, during and after exercise and activities. Don’t drink coffee, cola or other caffeine drinks because urine output is increased and dehydration occurs faster. Alcohol, beer and wine also increase dehydration. Drink 10 glasses of water daily to replace lost fluids in the body during hot weather. Don’t use salt tablets; our diets have plenty of salt.
Stop working outdoors or exercising if dizziness or lightheadedness occur, and: get out of the sunlight;
lie down in a cool spot; prop up your feet; remove extra clothes; drink 2 quarts of cool liquids during the next 2 to 4 hours. Rest and take it easy for the next 24 hours.
Other heat-related illnesses
Heat rash (prickly heat)develops when sweat ducts are blocked or swell, causing discomfort and itching.
Heat cramps occur after exercise due to loss of water, salt and minerals.
Heat edema (legs and hands swelling) occurs when sitting or standing at length in a hot environment.
Heat teteny (hyperventilation) is caused by short periods of stress in the heat.
Heat syncope (heat prostration) develops when working or exercising without replacing lost body fluids.
Heatstroke (sunstroke) occurs when the body can no longer regulate its own temperature and rises to 105 degrees or higher.
Heatstroke is a medical emergency, can be life-threatening, and can cause long-term, serious problems! Call 911 or have someone drive you immediately to an emergency room.