One of the most important elements of good health is drinking plenty of water. Many of us do not hydrate as much as we should; this is especially true for elders. How can we help them with hydration?
How much water do elders need?
There’s no exact answer for this but the daily guideline is 8 oz. of water for every 20 lbs. of weight. That’s 6-8 glasses of water for the average person. With exercise, warm weather and medications that cause frequent urination, the amount may increase. Check with your elder’s doctor for a more exact guideline.
Why don’t they drink more water?
According to Nancy Timothy, Wellness Nurse at Arbor View Assisted Living in Arvada, CO, for older folks, their sense of thirst decreases with age. They don’t recognize that basic need for hydration that our sense of thirst inspires.
I bet you thought your elders were just being obstinate. Well, they may be that, but they may also really not be thirsty.
Dementia, medications and physical limitations can also play a role in how much our elders do or don’t drink in the course of a day. The less water they drink, the more their thirst can diminish.
What can we do to help?
If your elders live alone, they might benefit from a pitcher or canister with measuring lines. For example, my mother-in-law would fill a pitcher in the morning to a certain point that her daily water intake needed to be. She’d fill a glass or water bottle throughout the day from this pitcher. She could keep track of what her intake was and so could we when we stopped by for a visit.
If your elder has home health aides who visit daily or throughout the week, they can assist by placing water on the table at meals and refilling glasses near their favorite chair or in obvious places in their home (while encouraging water intake).
In assisted living or nursing care communities, the staff usually encourages water intake throughout the day, with meals and with medication. But you should ask at the next care conference about how they are handling this and how they are measuring their impact.
Ask your elder if they feel thirsty during the day.
Ask how they are doing with water intake. (Keep in mind, they may slightly exaggerate…)
Offer some ideas on how they can drink more and what they might do to keep this need on their daily radar.
Talk about hydration at their next doctor visit. Ask the doctor to review their meds for any that might increase their need for water or that might lessen their thirst.
Find ways that would encourage your elder to hydrate. If they like their water room temperature, buy them a pitcher to leave out and that they can easily lift. If they like cold water, find a place in the fridge for a pitcher.
Add lemon or fruit to water to make it more palatable. Smoothies that mix water with fruit might be a good treat daily. Limit carbonated sugary drinks and replace with fruit juice or sparkling water.
If they have room for it, contract with a bottled water company to provide and replenish one of the water stations that dispenses water at either room temperature or cold.
Adequate hydration is something that elders need to think about, and consequently, something you need to think about as well. So let’s get started thinking and drinking. (yeah, yeah…I know what you’re going to drink).