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The Importance of Hydration for Seniors

A clear glass filled with water rests on a wooden table

Replenishing your body’s water supply through an adequate intake of fluids is essential to your health.[i] Fluids obtained from a combination of water, other beverages, and food play an important role in lubricating joints, energizing muscles, fighting infections, and maintaining normal bowel function. When we lose more fluids than we take in, dehydration occurs.

Anyone can become dehydrated, but the condition is especially common in older adults. According to an Age and Ageing study, 37 percent of patients 65 and older who were admitted to a hospital were dehydrated.[ii] Dehydration is also dangerous. Unchecked, it can cause seizures, kidney failure, heat injuries, coma, or even death.[iii] An increased loss or decreased intake of fluids can also lead to a depletion of electrolytes (or dissolved salts) that are vital for normal functioning of the body.[iv]

Seniors are more susceptible to dehydration because they have less water in their bodies than younger adults or children.[v] The sense of thirst also diminishes with age, and symptoms of dehydration in the elderly tend to go unnoticed. Many early signs are nonspecific and are often attributed to the natural effects of aging, medications, or other medical conditions, including dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. Among those suffering from swallowing difficulties, the prevalence of dehydration ranges from 44 to 75 percent.[vi] Many dysphagia patients suffer from dehydration because they are not motivated to consume thickened liquids.[vii]

As a caregiver, it is important to be aware of the signs of dehydration, including:

  • Increased thirst
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Lower urine output with discoloration
  • Dry skin
  • Dizziness

Fortunately, there are many ways caregivers can help the elderly maintain proper hydration:

  • Encourage them to drink at least five 8-ounce glasses of water per day. For those with dysphagia, Thick-It® Clear Advantage® Thickened Water offers pure hydration without added lemon flavor or artificial sweeteners, and will not thicken over time, allowing patients to consume it on their own schedules. It also mixes easily with powdered drink mixes, cocoa, and supplements without altering flavor or color to encourage consumption.
  • Remember that water isn’t the only option for obtaining an adequate amount of fluids. There are plenty of hydrating alternatives available, such as milk, juice, Jell-O, smoothies, popsicles, and even chicken, beef, and veggie broths. Fruits and vegetables with high water content, including tomatoes, oranges, and grapes can also aid in hydration.
  • When it comes to the temperatures of their drinks, many seniors have strong preferences. Heating or cooling beverages to a patient’s liking can promote hydration.

Dedicated to developing new and innovative dysphagia nutrition solutions, education is central to the Thick-It® brand’s mission. Download our free infographic for more on the symptoms and consequences of dehydration as well as prevention tips. You can find additional information about hydration and other health topics on the National Institutes of Health website.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have about the use of Thick-It® products. The information contained herein is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment in any manner.

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