Extreme Dehydration in the Elderly
The elderly are most susceptible to extreme dehydration. The crisis can happen in a day or over a period of a week. Though the body’s loss of water is greater than the amount consumed, water is still entering the body. The body is only losing it at a faster pace that it can retain it. Senior citizens and the aged lose the ability to retain water as they age. They also lose the sensation of thirst and do not know that their bodies need water. Forgetfulness is common in older people and indeed, these people forget to drink water.
There are many elderly today who continue to thrive after retirement age. They are very alert and involved in social networks, their families and their communities. Many lead active lifestyles and exercise too. Meanwhile, the body can only process one quart of water per hour and during exercise it will lose two quarts of water. Still, many believe they are replacing the water in their bodies but they do not realize the amount of water lost is greater and is occurring very rapidly.
Older people may be on various kinds of medication too. The medication can be for minor ailments and yet the medications can also make dehydration worse. If some of these pensioners live in high altitudes of 8,000 feet or higher, where they still enjoy skiing and the warm fires of chalets, they are breathing faster too and urinating more. The medications, high altitude and the exercise of skiing is a deadly combination leading to severe or extreme dehydration.
Results of dehydration in severe cases are diarrhea, vomiting and life threatening. Kidney failure is common in older people because the body, after a period of time, can no longer remove the fluids and the wastes as there is not enough water to assist the kidneys to function correctly. Other chronic illnesses that results from dehydration are kidney disease, diabetes, adrenal gland disorders and cystic fibrosis. Shock is also a high risk possibility as there is little water. No water leads to a low blood volume and a sudden drop in blood pressure. Death can happen within minutes of the episode. Coma and death are also severe results of dehydration.
Today, there is no excuse for dehydration whether the case is mild or severe. Bottled water is produced in every country of the world including the largest cities of some third world countries. The water industry exports and imports bottled water all over the world. People have filtered water dispensers in their homes and offices. There are even simple home recipes to follow for cases of dehydration. One quart of water is mixed with half a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of baking soda and three tablespoons of sugar. Sip slowly and finish it. Then make sure plenty of water is available all day too. Instead of losing large amounts of water from the body, the world should try to reduce the number of trips to the hospital for dehydration.