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Q: Are the elderly more susceptible to dehydration?

Posted August 07, 2013 in Advice Column, Greene County

A: Yes. Proper hydration is important for all of us right now as we’re experiencing the warmer temperatures of summer. However, as people age, their water percentage decreases while their body mass index increases. This causes the elderly person to have approximately 10 percent less water in their bodies than a young adult. This puts the older person at a disadvantage, and then they can also be more susceptible to dehydration if they forget to keep drinking fluids or they cut back on drinking fluids, so they don’t have to make as many trips to the bathroom.

Various diseases and medications can also play a factor in causing dehydration. Adequate hydration is necessary to regulate body temperature. It is also a transport medium for nutrients and waste products and supports numerous functions at the cellular level, including brain function.

Some symptoms of dehydration are confusion, rapid heart rate, decreased urine output, irritability, dry skin, constipation and dizziness.  The most important strategy is ensuring that elderly people consume a sufficient amount of fluids by encouragement, reminding and by making healthy drinks and water easily available and accessible at all times. If you suspect that you or your loved one is experiencing symptoms of dehydration, hydrate and/or seek medical treatment if necessary.

(Facts were taken from Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, v. 13)

Information provided by Toni Linberg, director of marketing, Regency Park Nursing and Rehab, 100 Ram Drive, Jefferson, (515) 386-4107.

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