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A Senior’s Need For Both Quality and Quantity of Water

August is National Water Quality Month and World Water Week is August 23 to September 1. In honor of these two important dates, today’s blog will focus on why quality and quantity of water counts when it comes to a senior’s fluid intake in San Mateo and elsewhere. Water intake is especially important in hospice when dehydration can really set in if not monitored. That’s because people facing the end of life don’t feel thirst like healthy people do, which means water intake can suffer greatly.

In fact, loss of appetite and weight loss are both normal parts of the dying process, says Very Well Health. For some, it’s gradual, while for others it comes on suddenly. At some point, those with a life-limiting illness will stop eating and drinking because they don’t feel the natural triggers that spur healthy people to pick up a fork or glass. That said, people in hospice do get thirsty and may develop dry mouth. They may not want to chug a whole glass of water but they need lubricants and good oral hygiene.

Water Quality

Poor water quality is a big health risk for everyone, especially the elderly. This subset of the population can face serious effects from contaminants in their drinking water. Not only are the elderly at a higher risk of chronic illnesses and weakened immune systems, their bodies aren’t as capable of fighting off those illnesses as they develop. As a result, contaminants such as viruses, pathogens, and bacteria in water can pose a particular danger for elderly people.

On top of that, seniors often experience reduced liver and kidney functions, which makes their bodies process chemicals differently than people who are younger. Finally, the elderly are more susceptible to complications that wouldn’t necessarily be a danger to young people. One example is diarrhea, which can result from water contaminants. No one likes having diarrhea, but in the elderly, it can actually pose some serious and life-threatening health problems. Diarrhea leads to dehydration, which poses its own set of health consequences, according to HealthinAging.

The most common water contaminants for seniors include:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Chemicals
  • Lead
  • Microbes
  • Zinc
  • Arsenic

The best way to ensure water quality is to drink bottled spring water rather than from the tap, especially if the water quality of the municipal supply is in question or if the resident has a well. An alternative to bottled water is to have a water treatment system installed in the home.

Water Quantity

Getting enough water is important too. Not only does this quench thirst and keep you from getting dehydrated, but water also helps with food digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste removal, says WebMD. Elderly people tend to lose their sense of thirst. This is often due to the natural aging process, but it can also be attributed to medications. Dehydration can be serious or even deadly in seniors. Signs of dehydration include:
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dark yellow or strong-smelling urine
  • Infrequent urination
  • Dry mouth, skin, lips, and eyes
  • Low blood pressure
  • Disorientation

There are also many health problems that can arise in the elderly who don’t get enough fluids, such as:

  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Slow reaction times
  • Extra fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Falls
  • Pressure sores
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Skin conditions
  • Constipation
  • Kidney problems

Sometimes, medications such as diuretics and laxatives can prevent a person from drinking enough fluids. Also, there are some health problems that make a person more susceptible to dehydration, such as:

  • ‌Alzheimer’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Dementia
  • Poor hormone response
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Poorly-controlled diabetes

Finally, another big reason many seniors don’t drink enough water is because of incontinence. If they have little to no warning when they have to urinate, this makes it difficult to reach a bathroom in time without having an accident. As a result, some people just stop drinking so much so they don’t have to contend with these potentially embarrassing situations.

So what’s a good amount of water for elderly people to consume? We’ve all heard that everyone should have eight glasses of water a day. While this is a good goal to have, it’s not always realistic. Other factors come into play, such as weather, body weight, and activity level. Experts suggest consuming one cup of water for every 20 pounds of weight. In the summer, when your senior may be sweating more than usual, it’s best to increase their fluid intake.

It’s important to realize that seniors lose water content as they age. In fact, by the age of 80, the amount of water in a senior’s body decreases by 20 percent. Then, when you add chronic illnesses such as diabetes, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and kidney problems to the mix, these can compound the problem.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Our caregiving team is very cognizant of the hydration needs of our patients. Trust us to ensure your senior loved one will stay hydrated at all times. Find out more about our hospice program in San Mateo and elsewhere when you call us at 888-978-1306.