Staying hydrated is essential for a senior's health, but some elderly individuals struggle to drink enough liquids throughout the day. If you're a caregiver or family member of an elderly loved one who needs to increase their liquid intake, you may need to provide them with fluids in different ways. In this article, we'll share a list of hacks about how to encourage an elderly individual to drink more water and stay better hydrated, even if they're not normally a fan of H2O.
1. Offer a Variety of Fluids
If a senior doesn't want to drink water, try offering some other fluids to see if they'll drink them. Some of the best options include:
- Herbal teas
- Coconut water (hydrating and full of electrolytes)
- Skim milk
- Tomato juice (in moderation, as the acidity can be harsh for some)
- Fruit juice (apple, prune, grape, or orange juice are great options, but be careful of sugar intake)
- Decaffeinated coffee (caffeinated coffee is fine in moderation as well)
- Diet soda (in moderation)
- Diet Gatorade or other diet sports drinks
Avoid grapefruit juice, as it has the potential to conflict with certain medications. Also, avoid drinks that are very caloric and contain a lot of sugar or salt.
2. Offer Foods with High Water Content
If a senior doesn't like to drink liquids, consider offering them foods with a high water content. Some of the best options include:
- Watermelon, grapes, and other fruits
- Cucumber slices
- Celery sticks
- Carrot sticks
- Sliced bell peppers
- Sliced apples
- Iceberg lettuce
- Low-sodium soups and broths
For the vegetables, you could also offer a healthy salad dressing or some hummus for dipping the veggies into as a tasty snack!
3. Make Drinks Look More Enticing and Fun
Some fussy seniors might be convinced to drink more liquids if the drink looks like a fancy treat! To make drinks look more enticing, you can:
- Add bits of fruit, garnishes, and extra color (such as with a splash of cranberry juice)
- Add soda water and crushed ice if the person enjoys having their drink fizzy
- Use a fun swirly straw, add a tropical umbrella, cover the top with a tasty rim, or serve in a special goblet or beautiful cup to elevate a boring drink to something special
4. Consider Frozen Treats
You may also want to consider giving a senior frozen popsicles or ice chips if they prefer that to drinking liquids. Some elderly seniors may find they have better salivation and can more easily swallow ice chunks than pure liquids. You can even make your own popsicles at home with fruit juice and store-bought popsicle molds!
5. Add Flavor to Plain Water
If a senior doesn't want to drink plain water, try mixing it with a dash of juice or a flavored drink additive. Lemon juice is often a popular choice to add to water to make it a bit tastier. Just be cautious not to overdo the lemon juice, as it's highly acidic and can damage teeth over time.
6. Make Drinking Easier
Some seniors have difficulty swallowing and may have a hard time drinking liquids directly from a glass. Try giving the senior water with an easy-to-sip straw to help them drink more easily. Experiment with different sizes and styles of straws to find one that works best for the specific individual's preferences.
7. Provide Easy-to-Hold Containers
If your loved one has arthritis or weak hands and fingers, consider giving them a drink container that is easier for them to hold and grip safely. You can find ergonomically designed, large-handled, easy-to-grip water bottles online, as well as adult sippy cups, which are perfect for seniors!
8. Set Hydration Goals
Help change the perspective of a senior's fluid intake issues by presenting hydration goals you can both work on together. Make a daily checklist of how much water or fluids should be consumed and keep track of each other's progress. This can be especially motivating for competitive seniors. There are even some water bottles that have specific markings to help a drinker meet specific fluid intake goals at various times of the day!
9. Offer Hydrating Foods
Another way to encourage a senior to increase their fluid intake is by offering them hydrating foods. Jello is 95% water, plus it's easy to eat and swallow even for elderly individuals. Sugar-free Jello may be the best option depending on a senior's health. There are also newer hydration balls available, such as "Jelly Drops," which are made from 95% water and can help seniors stay hydrated.
10. Be Patient and Gentle
It's important not to force an elderly person to drink water if they don't want to. Forcing them to drink could cause anxiety or a phobia of water, especially for seniors with dementia. Be patient and try some of the suggestions listed above to gently encourage an elderly relative to double down on hydration. With all of these tasty and creative options, there's no reason why an elderly person can't enjoy a fun and hydrating drink every day!
Why Do Older Seniors Struggle to Stay Hydrated?
It's very common for older individuals to struggle with dehydration. Several factors contribute to this issue, including:
- Declining kidney function: As kidney function worsens with age, the body has a harder time conserving fluids.
- Difficulty swallowing: Some elderly individuals may suffer from dysphagia, making it incredibly difficult for them to drink and eat at a normal rate.
- Intentional decrease in fluid intake: Some seniors voluntarily cut back on their fluid intake to avoid frequent bathroom trips.
- Diminished sense of thirst: The elderly may lose their sense of thirst as they age and may not realize they are thirsty until their fluid levels are dangerously low.
- Medications: Certain medications can deplete a senior's water and electrolyte levels.
- Health conditions: Many elderly individuals have health conditions that can make their bodies dehydrate more rapidly.
- Embarrassment associated with incontinence: Seniors who struggle with incontinence may intentionally refuse to drink fluids to avoid accidents.
- Limited mobility in avoiding heat: Seniors with limited mobility may have difficulty staying cool and may become dehydrated more easily.
- Availability of nursing home staff: Seniors in nursing homes may not have the same access to fluids as they would at home, relying on staff members to provide them with liquids.
How Much Water Should an Elderly Senior Drink Each Day?
While water intake requirements can vary depending on a senior's overall health, gender, activity level, and environment, it's generally agreed that a senior should consume 6-8 glasses of water per day (approximately 1.7 liters of water). However, it's important to consult with a doctor to determine the specific water intake needs for an individual senior.
Symptoms of Dehydration in Seniors
It's crucial to recognize the signs of dehydration in seniors. Common symptoms include:
- Dry mouth
- Dry, cracked lips
- Drier skin than normal
- Fast pulse
- Decreased urinary output
- Dark, strong-smelling urine
- Delirium and confusion
- Sunken eyes
- Extreme lack of urination (no urination for 8 hours)
- Change in behavior
Dangers of Dehydration for Seniors
Dehydration can have serious consequences for seniors' long-term health if left untreated. It can affect kidney function, hinder the body's ability to heal from injuries, and lead to various complications. Some of the dangers and health effects associated with senior dehydration include:
- Weakness and dizziness
- Confusion (especially in seniors with Alzheimer's)
- Kidney stones
- Blood clot complications It can be challenging to get elderly people to drink enough water, but with patience, creativity, and the tips mentioned above, you can help ensure that your loved one stays hydrated and healthy. If you're concerned about their fluid intake, consult with their doctor and consider implementing some of these methods. Remember, hydration is crucial for their overall well-being.