A new study found that 31 percent of older adults are dehydrated. Sufficient fluid consumption among older adults is associated with fewer falls, less constipation, less laxative use, improved rehabilitation in orthopedic patients, and a reduction in bladder cancer (among men). Dehydration is partly due to natural aging.

Your body is a temple for water. In fact, most of your body is made up of water. Newborns have the most water at 78 percent of total body mass, dropping to 65 percent by age one. On average, bodies of adult men are 60 percent water. Women contain about 55 percent.

When you don’t get enough water, dehydration can occur and can be serious. The key is to know the early warning signs of dehydration — such as thirst, dry mouth or sticky saliva, or reduced output of urine. People who are moderately dehydrated may have extreme thirst, a mouth very dry in appearance, decreased urination (three times or less daily and dark brown in color), and lightheadedness.

The symptoms of severe dehydration include:

• Severe anxiety and confusion

• Inability to remain awake

• Weak, rapid pulse

• Skin that is cold and clammy or hot and dry

• Little or no urination

• Loss of consciousness

Older adults have an increased risk of dehydration, but often for different reasons. Seniors may have:

• Less of an urge to drink

• Kidneys that don’t function efficiently

• Difficulty communicating

• A disease that makes using the bathroom painful 

• An incontinence problem that causes them to limit fluid intake

• Physical problems like arthritis and pain that interfere with their ability to drink.

Older adults should be monitored for early signs of shock — including lightheadedness, signs of fear or confusion, thirst, nausea, vomiting, profuse sweating and rapid, weak breathing. To learn more about dehydration, contact your physician.

Maureen A. Wendt is president and CEO of The Dale Association, a Lockport-based non-profit organization that provides senior, mental health, in-home care, caregiver support services and enrichment activities for adults. For more information, call 433-1937 or visit www.daleassociation.com.

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