Is Your Glass Half Empty, or Half Full?
As a person ages, they are less likely to retain healthy water levels in their system, as well as having a decrease in thirst sensation. Because of these phenomena, our senior population is more susceptible to dehydration. We are all familiar with the 8X8 rule – drink 8, 8 ounce glasses of water a day. But, what happens if you don’t or you can’t consume that much fluid easily?
Being dehydrated can cause additional problems than only needing water. It can lead to headaches, dry mouth, low blood pressure which in turn leads to dizziness, and dizziness leads to falls. It can also cause urinary tract infections as well as constipation. Those issue as also bring a new problem for seniors such as increased confusion.
When people are hydrated they have the added benefits of:
- Increased physical strength – Water helps oxygen move to the muscles, which gives the muscles necessary bodily support and increased physical abilities.
- Increased memory function – Our brain is made up of 73% water, thus the need of water to function properly. When we are hydrated our memory’s cognitive function improves, which promotes improved focus, concentration and alertness.
- Reduced toxins that can cause infections – The more water a person drinks the more toxins are released from the body, preventing kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Excessive amounts of water may cause electrolyte depletion in the system, so be careful not to overdo your water intake.
- Improved heart health – Hydration helps keep the same consistency of blood, plasma, and other proteins that are passed through our system leading to a healthier heart.
As a senior it is difficult to be sure you are receiving adequate daily amounts of fluids, and that is why at Bel Aire Senior Living we instituted a resident hydration program in 2005. In our year-round arid, Utah climate, it is critical to us that our residents are continuously hydrated. Our program consists of daily distribution of fresh 16 oz. mugs filled with ice water to each resident in the mornings, refill mugs during snack time in the mid-afternoons, and at bedtime refill. When we see a resident hasn’t been drinking their water, we invite them to take two big sips from their mug. Likewise, when a resident is receiving their medications we ask them for additional water intake. The hydration program does not include what a resident drinks at meals – that is additional hydration beyond their sipping throughout the day.
Results: UTIs down 78%; Falls down 52% in the quarter after implementing the hydration program.