Staying Hydrated in the Summer Heat-Tips for Elders

By Beth Scholer, CC, CDM, CFPP

In the midst of the hot and hazy days of summer, we often think of creative ways to stay cool. The hot summer weather presents an even greater risk to elders.  As we age, our bodies cannot regulate body temperature as effectively as it once did.  Medication and chronic illness can exasperate the body’s response to overheating.  Staying indoors can help keep elders cool, but something that is often overlooked is drinking adequate amounts of fluids.

Help Your Clients’ Hydrate
Getting elderly clients to drink beverages can be a challenge to many caregivers.  The elder’s sense of thirst is diminished with age or sometimes the fear of incontinence causes them to restrict fluids. Try these helpful tips:

  • Keep a pitcher or bottle of water nearby and remind the client to sip throughout the day. This can also be a tool for measuring daily water intake.
     
  • Link activities with drinking a beverage to help the elder remember. For example, drinking a glass of water after brushing teeth or while watching the daily news are habits that can be learned.
     
  • Liven up plain water with lemon or lime wedges, fresh cucumbers, berries or herbs.
     
  • Offer snacks that are high in moisture such as applesauce, oranges, melon or grapes.  These foods are also good sources of the electrolyte, potassium.

Plain Water is Just Too Plain
What if your client doesn’t care for plain water…don’t worry; milk, 100% fruit and vegetable juice, broth based soups, coffee and tea are good ways to fill up on fluids.  It is important to limit soda, sugary beverages, sports drinks and caffeine containing beverages because they add a lot of empty calories and may actually lead to dehydration.

Water, other fluids and some foods are also good sources of electrolytes, vital minerals to help maintain the body’s blood chemistry, muscle function and other important processes.  Electrolyte levels, especially levels of sodium, potassium, and calcium can become too high or too low causing dehydration or over hydration. 

How Much Fluid is Enough?
The Institute of Medicine recommends that men over 50 consume almost 13 cups of beverages each day.  Women over 50 should consume 9 cups daily.  While these amounts seem daunting; it is important to keep in mind that many foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are high in moisture and count towards daily fluid intake.  MyPlate for Older Adults from Tufts University’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging recommends eight cups of beverages each day.

Being properly hydrated is a simple way for the body to help regulate its temperature. Drinking enough water is also important for the digestion of food and the removal of waste from the body.  Fluid also helps to lubricate and cushion joints and protect sensitive tissue like the eyes.

Take a few moments with your client to enjoy this beautiful summer weather.   Go for a walk or sit on the patio and remember to serve a refreshing glass of her favorite beverage.

Chef Beth Scholer is certified by the American Culinary Federation and Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals. She is a food scientist, culinary instructor, presenter, author and founder of Caregivers Kitchen. She can be reached at chefbeth@caregiverskitchen.net

Sources:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Nutrition for Everyone: Water. CDC, 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 June. 2013. http:www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/water.html

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Heat Stress in Older Adults. CDC, 13 July 2015. Web. 3 Aug. 2015. http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/older-adults-heat.asp

Institute of Medicine. Panel on Dietary Reference Intakes for Electrolytes and Water, Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride and Sulfate. Washington, D. C.: National Academy Press, 2005.

Tufts University. MyPlate for Older Adults. USDA-HNRCA. 2011. For details about the MyPlate for Older Adults, please see: http://nutrition.tufts.edu/research/myplate-older-adults.