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Expert Elder Care Guidance
Expert Elder Care Guidance
How much water should older people drink?
The short answer: Most experts recommend eight glasses of water (8 ounces each) per day. Some refer to it as the “8 by 8” rule. Water can save your parents from a whole host of health problems, especially those related to kidney disease. Tuft’s University Center on Nutrition has become so convinced of the health benefits of water for older people that they redesigned the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid so that it “floats” (you can see the redesigned pyramid by clicking here) with eight glasses of water pictured on the bottom. Why the floating base? Dehydration is a major problem among the elderly.
While the Gen-X and Y crowds run around with water bottles in hand, their grandparents are losing their sense of thirst. As a result, the older generation is having kidney problems, urinary tract infections, constipation and other health conditions linked to a chronic state of dehydration. And the elderly are especially affected by dehydration because many of the medications they take may further deplete the body’s water supply without their ever realizing it.
All too often, we forget that nearly three-fourths of our body is water. Thus, we need to keep a healthy amount of fresh fluids flowing in and out of our bodies. Water flushes out wastes, regulates our body temperature, carries nutrients throughout the blood stream to vital organs, and supports chemical balances. Staying well hydrated can boost energy and keep the skin moist, which is especially helpful for dry, aging skin. Signs of dehydration include dizziness, weakness, muscle cramps and general feelings of weakness.
Is water the only way to stay hydrated? Not necessarily. Your parents can achieve this higher fluid intake with juices, milk, and teas or coffee without caffeine. Some foods also include water: soups, yogurt, fruits such as watermelon, apples, oranges and tomatoes, and vegetables like lettuce, carrots and cucumbers. But not all fluids are created equal. Alcoholic beverages don’t count in your daily intake – they get a big fat zero. In fact, alcohol inhibits the body’s anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) resulting in a loss of fluids. Black tea, green tea, caffeinated sodas and coffee are also known to have a dehydrating effect. Most physical fitness experts recommend starting your day with water, as your body becomes dehydrated during the night and can greatly benefit from water first thing in the morning.
Figuring out your parents’ best source of water requires a bit of exploration. They might want to drink bottled water as a way of measuring how much they drink each day. If they don’t feel their tap water is safe to drink, they could purchase a simple water filter to attach to the kitchen faucet or buy a water pitcher with a filter. To make their water intake more interesting, they could add slices of lime or lemon.
Note: if your parents plan to start drinking more water for their health, they should first check with their physician. Some kidney or other medical conditions require that fluid intake be monitored. Also, if it appears your parents are steering clear of water, take the time to find out why. For example, you might find your dad is lowering his intake because getting to the bathroom is a hassle. Your mom may be cutting down her fluids because she fears incontinence. These indicate other health problems that will only be exacerbated by limiting their fluid intake. So, find out what’s going on first and then create a hydration strategy that suits your parents’ needs and lifestyles.
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