Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Dangers of Dehydration

Dehydration can be a deadly threat to seniors. My mother, Elizabeth, was hospitalized because of dehydration. The Drs and hospital were unable to save her. She returned to the care facility were she had been staying and received hospice care for the last week of her life. I still grieve because I question what else I should have, could have done to have had a different outcome.
Preventing dehydration is key to better health for seniors. Janet Mentes PhD, APRN, BC in the American Journal of Nursing – June 2006, talks about why hydration matters:
Fluid balance, the state in which fluid intake equals output, is essential to health, regardless of a person's age. In older adults, adequate fluid consumption has been associated with fewer falls, lower rates of constipation, and lower rates of laxative use, as well as better rehabilitation outcomes in orthopedic patients and reduced risk of bladder cancer in men. 3-5 Drinking five or more 8-oz. glasses of water (but not other liquids) per day has been associated with lower rates of fatal coronary heart disease in middle-age and older adults than drinking two or fewer glasses. 6 And in one study, drinking 16 oz. of room-temperature water before a meal resulted in significantly lower rates of postprandial orthostatic hypotension in older adults who had autonomic failure. 7

There are a number of factors that contribute to dehydration in seniors. As we age our thirst mechanism becomes blunted we do not always realize that we need water. A second factor has to do with the changes to our body make up. From the age of puberty to the age of 39 - 60% of our body weight is fluid. After the age of 60 years old are men’s body fluid drops to 52% and women’s body fluid drops to 46%. Another factor is the loss of muscle as we age. Muscle cells contain more fluid than fat cells. Medication can also interfere with fluid balance.

Alexcia Hawkes in her blog article The Importance of Hydration in Old Age writes about the importance of drinking enough water. I find it amazing that dehydration contributes to falls, constipation as well as incontinence, and can increase confusion.

Nancy Hearn writes about 12 Symptoms of Dehydration. I didn’t know that cartilage in joints are made of fluid and that dehydration adds to joint problems.
Staying hydrated helps keep us healthy and functioning. Here’s to enjoying more H20 in our daily life and those we love.

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