Summer months are proving to already bring record-breaking high temperatures. Some of the requirements to shelter-at-home have relaxed, and you are probably out-and-about to shop, walk with your family and/or friends, or maybe go for a drive. Harmony’s Team is confident that you are wearing your mask, social distancing, keeping your hands away from your face as much as possible, and washing your hands; however, are you keeping yourself hydrated, especially during the summer? Older people are more vulnerable to dehydration, which increases risk of falling.
Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid at a greater rate than the body can replace it (Duarte, Bouca-Machado, Domingos, et al., 2018), and can cause you to feel lightheaded and dizzy. Older persons have reduced sensation of thirst, meaning that you may not realize you need fluids. Symptoms of dehydration include sluggishness, confusion, dizziness (as mentioned), and dark urine. With proper hydration, your urine should be pale yellow to colorless.
In a recent study of 170 community dwelling elderly, only 56% of the respondents reported consuming greater than 6 glasses of fluid a day, whereas 9% reported consuming less than or equal to 3 glasses. About 60% of respondents overestimated the amount of fluid loss at which they could experience moderate severe dehydration. Also, the majority of respondents were not aware that improper hydration or changes in hydration status can result in complications – kidney problems or heart failure with fluid overload (Picetti, Foster, Pangle, et al., 2017)
Proper hydration is an essential health practice for your body’s vital organs. Water is essential to your life!
Hydration is also essential to proper joint function. Your joints’ mobility relies on a fluid called synovial fluid for vital nutrients. This fluid is found in the spaces between your bones and provides your cartilage tissue and joints with needed food. According to Swanson (2015), synovial fluid is around 80% water, so proper hydration is so important for your healthy joints’ smooth, cushioned movement. Without synovial fluid, your bones will rub against one another. Over time, the lack of hydration will lead to starving bones, unhealthy joints, and more rigid bones that present as arthritis or osteoporosis (Swanson, 2015). Joint problems result in limited range of motion and pain, impairing your gait and balance, increasing your fall risk.
Along with preserving your joints, water provides nutrients to your vital organs such as the brain. Dehydration by as little as 2-3% of your body weight can lead to serious light headedness, loss of balance, and fatigue (Swanson, 2015). Many elderly experience troubles with balance or joints when they are older due to inadequate hydration over long-term periods in their life.
Many older persons limit fluid intake to avoid having to go to the bathroom or fears of incontinence. To relieve your worry, you can consider having a drink at specific times of the day, whether you are thirsty or not, and plan for toileting within 30-60 minutes after. It’s suggested that people drink 6-8 cups of fluids a day, but water intake must be individualized based on your medical history, worthy of checking with your primary provider (CDC, 2016)
You know, water is best! Tea, coffee and fruit juices of course add to your fluid choices. Other sources of water include foods, such fruits and vegetables which contain a high percentage of water. Many people choose to start the day with 16 ozs of water before eating or drinking for breakfast. This is a practice that I utilize. To avoid getting up at night to go to the bathroom, you can drink your last glasses of water two hours before going to bed (Bone & Joint).
If your healthcare provider has prescribed fluid restriction due to your health needs, you will want to follow your healthcare plan. But still monitor if you have signs of dehydration and discuss this with your healthcare provider. Remember, keeping your body hydrated improves your overall health which reduces your fall risks.
You and your healthcare team can assure that your daily fluid intake is adequate for proper hydration, but only you can make sure you drink enough fluids. Remember, water is your body’s friend.
I hope this information is helpful to you.
Stay strong, active, and connected with your healthcare team. We are improving our health, function and safety together.
Your Harmony Team is here to help you!
Thank you for reading this message and in advance for sharing with others.
Bone & Joint. Hydrate for better performance and less joint pain. Accessed 07/01/20: www.bonejoint.net/blog/hydrate-for-better-performance-and-less-joint-pain/
CDC. (2016, Aug. 9). Get the facts: Drinking water and intake. Accessed 07/01/20: https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/plain-water-the-healthier-choice.html
Duarte, M., Bouca-Machado, R., Domingos, J., Godinho, C., & Ferreira, J. (2018). Feasibility of using risk promoted to prevent falls, dehydration and pulmonary aspiration in nursing homes: a clinical protocol. Pilot and Feasibility, 4:39
Picetti, D., Foster, S., Pangle, A., Schrader, A., George, M., Wei, J., & Azhar, G. (2017). Hydration health literacy in the elderly. Nutr. Healthy Aging, 4(3): 227-237. Available:
Swanson, C. (2015). The importance of hydration in preserving joints and preventing falls. Assisting Hands Home Care. Accessed 07/01/20 https://www.assistinghands.com/20/illinois/hinsdale/blog/the-importance-of-hydration-in-preserving-joints-and-preventing-falls/