As we head into summer, it is important to remember that the joy of seeing the hot sun can also bring health problems. One common problem is dehydration. Dehydration is more common in the elderly. The elderly have lower water content and decreased capacity to respond to stressors such as fasting, exposure to extreme heat, exercise, and disease.
Causes of dehydration can include: increased heat, decreased fluid intake (sometimes from the desire not to have to use the toilet), fever, hot weather, increased urinary infection, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Early symptoms of dehydration should not be ignored. They include: thirst; dry,warm skin; increased confusion; dizziness or lightheadedness; hard bowel movements; weakness; and dry mouth or mucous membranes. Increasing the amount of fluid intake can easily rectify dehydration if caught early. Dehydration can be prevented by drinking 8 glasses of water a day unless otherwise directed by your doctor. So remember, as the summer approaches:
Drink! Drink! Drink!
written by: Carolyn Uzarowski, RN; Health Director, Woods Adult Day Services
Eating well is important at any age. However health issues and physical limitations can make it difficult for some to get the nutrients they need. Symptoms of malnutrition (weight loss, disorientation, lightheadedness, lethargy, and loss of appetite) can be mistaken for illness or disease. If you are concerned about the diet of someone you care for, here are some tips to ensure proper nutrition.
- Offer nutritionally-dense foods. Encourage whole, unprocessed foods that are high in calories and nutrients. Whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and protein-rich beans, meat, and dairy products are some good choices.
- Enhance aromas and flavors. You can intensify flavors with herbs, marinades, dressings, and sauces. Switching between a variety of foods during one meal can make the meal interesting. Try combining textures, such as yogurt with granola, to make foods more appetizing.
- Eating is a social event. People often fail to eat if left alone. Have the family eat together or invite a friend over. Play soft music, light candles, and talk about the day’s events.
- Be aware of the food available. Remove outdated and spoiled food and have nutritious snacks in plain sight.
- Be aware of dental problems. Improper oral health can make eating uncomfortable. Make sure dentures fit properly and any other problems are being managed.
- Give reminders. If poor memory is interfering with good nutrition, plan meals at the same time every day and give visual and verbal reminders when it’s time to eat.
- Serve finger foods for those unable to handle utensils.
- Have plenty of fluids available.
- If someone has problems swallowing:
- Allow plenty of time between bites and check for food in the cheeks
- Remind the person to swallow
- Gently stroking the throat will sometimes stimulate swallowing
- Alter food textures that cause difficulty. Liquids can be thickened and solids can be moistened or pureed.
The best ways to find-out why your loved one isn’t eating well are to pay attention. Look for clues and ask questions. Encourage him to talk openly and honestly, and reassure him that he is not a burden to you or anyone else.