Quad Cities, IL/IA

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DEHYDRATION: Are You at Risk?


“Last week was not a good week. My friend Sophie and I decided to go for a walk on this warm and sunny afternoon. It was PERFECT! After a while, my mouth began to feel dry; where is a drinking fountain when you need it? And, my heart began to race and I felt dizzy. Where are the benches? I saw a nice clump of grass and, well, that’s where I landed. When I opened my eyes, all these people were staring at me. Someone gave my some nice sips of cool water. I didn’t make a fuss about drinking water then, did I …”

That was Miss Lily sharing her story about the importance of keeping yourself hydrated. It is too bad that she had to learn the hard way. And, when Marilyn (Miss Lily’s personal caregiver) found out, she said, “Miss Lily, if you are going to walk outside … especially in warm weather … you have to carry a bottle of water!” Miss Lily’s response: “You know I hate to carry anything when I’m walking.” Marilyn reminded Miss Lily about her medical problems and how important it was to keep hydrated.

DEHYDRATION, as described in a Mayo Clinic article, occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If you don’t replace your fluids, you will become dehydrated.

Some common causes of dehydration include exercising in hot weather, fever, vomiting, or excessive sweating. Older adults who have chronic illnesses are more at risk … even a normal walk in the park on a warm sunny day can be a problem.

Getting an older person to drink more water isn’t always easy. I am often asked, “How can I get my mother/husband/wife to drink more liquids?” It’s a constant battle.

Here is one of the many scenarios Marilyn and I act out to teach caregivers how to communicate with an older person suffering from dementia and not realizing the importance of keeping hydrated:

Marilyn: “Miss Lily, I just made a new drink and I’m not sure if it needs anything added to it. Would you please taste it and tell me what you think?”

Miss Lily: “Sure … let me taste it … mm … not bad. Could use more lemon … mm … a little sweeter.” 

By this time, Miss Lily has finished almost the whole glass and is asking for more. Reminding Miss Lily that she contributed to the making of the drink, Marilyn decided to call it Lily’s Lemonade. In the winter, it became Lily’s Warm-up. Miss Lily carried a small plastic bottle filled with her drink whenever she went out for a walk.

Summer is here so get out those drink recipes … keep yourself and those you love hydrated.

Be well, Linda Gilman MS, LPC. GeriEd Services, 309-373-2400 or www.geriedservices.com

Photo credit: Dirima/iStock