It’s important to drink enough fluids for more reasons than you might realize. Water is needed for many things in your body, including digesting food, controlling body temperature, and healing wounds. When you don’t drink enough water, it can cause you to feel weak, tired, dizzy, constipated, confused, and cranky.
Yet one in five long-term care residents become dehydrated every year. This can happen for different reasons, like limited access to fluids, ignoring dry mouth and other thirst signals, having a hard time drinking because of physical challenges, and drinking less to avoid going to the bathroom often.
To help older adults avoid dehydration, Heather Keller (Schlegel Research Chair in Nutrition and Aging) and her Nutrition and Aging Lab have been exploring solutions to avoid dehydration. Some successful methods include carrying a water bottle, offering preferred cups and drinks, learning thirst signals to know when you’re thirsty, planning for washroom access, eating foods with high fluid content, drinking with others, drinking in between meals, and making fluid intake a part of your daily routines.
The lab’s current project, called “PROMOTE,” is working with Schlegel Villages to test the practicality of seven strategies to promote hydration in older adults.
Tips for improving hydration
To determine how much water you need, Keller suggests thinking about your body size, how active you are, the temperature outside, and the food you’ve eaten. Interestingly, 20-40 per cent of the water we get comes from the food we eat. As a general rule, at least six to eight cups of fluid per day is recommended.
As you get older, you may find that you don’t feel as thirsty as you used to. However, monitoring how often you need the bathroom and how much you are urinating can help you figure out how hydrated you are, to ultimately improve your overall health.
Want more information on hydration? Watch Keller’s webinar recording, Strategies to Improve Hydration in Older Adults: https://youtu.be/Rr1_cO8Xa3E