Keeping Seniors Safe This Summer
Now that summer is officially here, most seniors are beating the heat by staying inside or sitting in the shade. One important health behaviour that most seniors overlook is the amount of water they are drinking. Latiece Washington, a Nursing Manager at a long-term care facility said that “It’s important that older adults get enough water because they typically have less body mass than younger people. They have a smaller reserve of fluids, and therefore dehydration can sneak up on them quickly, especially in the warmer months of the year.”
The potential consequences of dehydration in seniors include kidney issues causing the affected individual to become lethargic and confused. Those who have diabetes are at a higher risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, causing acid build up in the body. Dehydration can also lead to heart attacks and heart failure. Due to a lack of water, blood thickens making it much harder for the heart to circulate resulting in a potential heart attack.
How do you know if you are dehydrated? Seniors who don’t drink enough water will relieve themselves less often, have dark coloured urine, a dry or sticky mouth, and complaining of a severe throbbing headache. So, how much should a senior drink to avoid these consequences? Seniors should drink eight or more eight-ounce glasses of water a day. The list below contains some tips on how you can reach this goal.
- Find a 64-ounce pitcher and keep it in the fridge with water, every time you walk by, take a drink. When you ae finished the pitcher, you know you have had enough water that day.
- Try flavour enhancers if you don’t like the taste of water (lemon, berries, cucumbers).
- Eat hydrating foods like melon, watermelon, and berries.
What often goes in hand in hand with dehydration? Heat stroke. Heat stroke happens when the body heats up faster than it can cool off. Older adults are especially vulnerable to developing heat stroke when temperatures are high because of the aging body’s decreased capacity to adapt to changes in body temperature. Heat stroke is a medical emergency resulting in high body temperatures (103ºF or higher). Symptoms could include skin that is dry, damp, red or hot as well as a strong, fast pulse, confusion and loss of consciousness.
If you notice anyone experiencing these symptoms you need to:
- Call 911
- Move them into a cooler place
- Cool their body temperature down with a cool, damp cloth
- Do not give them anything to drink until stabilized.
There are other heat related illnesses including heat exhaustion, heat rash, sun burn and heat cramps that can happen during a long day in the sun. Take appropriate precautions when out this summer by wearing appropriate clothing, drinking enough water, wearing sun protection, and seeking shade when needed.
For more information on all questions related to heart health, please visit: https://northernhearts.org/ or follow Northern Hearts on Facebook and Instagram (@NorthernHeartsThunderBay), where a new posting occurs every Friday on all things heart health.
For more information on the importance of hydration visit: https://bethesdahealth.org/blog/2021/06/02/importance-senior-hydration/
Submitted by: Kayla Waddington, Program Coordinator, Northern Hearts