Dehydration Leads to Falls and Hospitalizations in Older Adults

Daily in my physical therapy practice based in Lee’s Summit I see patients that ultimately end up with me due to dehydration.

Older adults are prone to dehydration. This can be due to decreased sensation of thirst, but is also often due to side effects from medications, dementia, and many other factors. Unfortunately, they are also more prone to the things that dehydration often leads to.  Dehydration can lead to low blood pressure, which can cause dizziness, and also fatigue. This is the cause of falls in many of my patients.

Falls quite often lead to injuries, like hip fractures and shoulder fractures. These often require surgery and almost always require hospital stays. Dehydration can also lead to kidney injury, constipation, electrolyte imbalances, and many other issues that also often lead to hospitalization.

Unfortunately, people usually come home after a hospital stay significantly weaker than they were before. Even worse, many of these people are not referred to physical therapists, who are the go-to absolute best professionals to reduce fall risk, increase strength, and get people back to how they were before, if not better, than they were before their hospitalization.

Symptoms of dehydration can include:

  • Reduced urine
  • Dark urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Extreme thirst
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness

Also, try this… pull the skin up from the backside of your hand. If it doesn’t ‘snap back’ quickly, you may be dehydrated.

Tips to stay hydrated:

Eat water dense foods – this includes grapes, melons, lettuce, tomatoes, berries, citrus, celery, peaches, and anything else nice and juicy.

Drink regularly – don’t wait until you are thirsty. Maybe even set an alarm for every 15-30 minutes to take another drink.

Measure – get a container that has increments marked and keep it close. I know that I drink 2-3 times more liquid each day when I do this.

When hungry, drink first – hunger is often confused with thirst. Also, drinking water will help digestion when actually eating.

Flavor – if you don’t like plain water, flavor it up with a squirt of lemon or lime. You can also try flavor infusing or sports drink mixes, but I usually use about half of the recommended amount.

Be careful with caffeine – caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it can actually dehydrate you. One of the best things you can do if you drink more than a cup or two per day is to reduce the amount of coffee or tea that you drink.

Here’s to keeping you hydrated and healthy this summer! Drink up!

 

 

Erik

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