The human body is composed of roughly 70 percent water. Water allows the body to carry on many of the vital processes of life. After the age of 60, the body’s water content decreases to about 50 percent, making hydration even more important in the elderly. Elderly people often lose muscle mass as they age, and gain more fatty tissue. Fat cells hold less water than muscle cells, meaning lower intracellular fluid.
Most caregivers are aware of the dangers of dehydration during the heat of summer, and how it can affect their elderly clients. What some may not know is that dehydration during the winter is very common, and equally as dangerous. Caregivers must be much more alert to the subtle signs of cold weather dehydration. They are not as easy to spot as signs of dehydration in the summer, and thus can turn deadly very quickly.
When the weather is hot the body has a number of ways to send warnings about impending dehydration, such as sweating. When the weather turns chilly some of the body’s natural warning signs shut off.
As a caregiver, one must keep on eye out for the more subtle signs of dehydration during the winter. Should a client start becoming strangely irritable, or confused this may be a sign of dehydration. Other signs to look out for as a caregiver are, dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, heavy bags under the eyes, rapid heartbeat, dark urine, and fever.
Severe dehydration may require hospitalization, and can cause a wide array of maladies, including coronary failure. As a caregiver it is very important to watch out for the signs of dehydration in clients during the winter months. Catching the signs of dehydration early can mean the difference between life, and death for a client.