Water! Water!

By Cindy Sproles

Marybeth was the new charge nurse in a prominent nursing home facility. As she perused the hallways after resident meals were served, she noticed carton after carton of unopened milk, 8 oz. glasses of cellophane sealed tea and cups of coffee…all untouched. “My residents aren’t taking in fluids.” She commented to the board. “I want to begin a campaign to encourage our people to drink more water.”

So she did. It took time, but Marybeth and her CNA’s poured cups of ice water, inserted straws and even gently placed the straws to the lips of weaker residents. Small cups of crushed ice were given to residents throughout the day. Two months passed and Marybeth and her staffed noticed a number of unique things. First, more of the residents were sitting in the lounge area. They were alert, chatting and social. Better yet, many who would normally refuse to walk, were tooling around the halls on their walkers.

Life at the residence had greatly improved and Marybeth gave the credit to her staff for their continued efforts in encouraging their patients to drink more water. “Things changed after we begin to hydrate our patients.” Water is a vital and healing source for the body and since our bodies are largely made up of fluids, it can’t help but improve the quality of life.

More and more Americans are switching their sights from sugar-filled drinks to water. Good old fashioned water. Nothing seems to truly quench a thirst over H2O. However, for our seniors drinking enough water is tough.

According to the American Medical Association as our bodies age our scale that balances the need for fluids and the desire for them, shifts. Thirst decreases. And the less we drink the less we want. This especially dangerous for our seniors.

Seniors need water and the hurdles happen when this desire plummets. Water hydrates not only thirst but the entire body. Well hydrated bodies sport brains that function better leading to stronger memory and thought process. Water acts as a lubricant to joints and muscles helping keep the body well-oiled and moving.

Aging adults will sometimes suffer with constipation thus adding fiber to their diets. Fiber increases stools and as a result draws more water from their systems. Drinking plenty of fluids aids in digestion and increases bowel functions. Being well hydrated helps aid in more elasticity in the skin, helping ward off dry skin, dry eyes and scratchy throats.

Kidney issues are common in seniors as well. Without proper hydration, the body cannot function to flush out impurities and toxins that build in the system. In a nutshell, water not only washes your dishes at home but it cleanses your body.

Encourage aging family members to keep water freely throughout their house. Adding a glass by the bed, one by the recliner, another in the laundry room and even water in the garage makes for a readily available reminder to reach for a sip.

Watch for symptoms of dehydration in your loved ones by checking for sunken and darkened eyes, drowsiness, confusion, labored or slurred speech, dizziness, chronic muscle aches, labored breathing and weakness. Few realize how important water is to the lungs. By keeping them moist and soft rather than dry and hardened, breathing (especially for those seniors with COPD and other pulmonary issues), is much easier.

Water increases the body’s ability to function properly and learning to avoid high-sugar drinks is one small step in helping improve your aging parent’s quality of life. Whether it’s cold tea, filtered water or flavored no-sugar or calorie water…drink. Water, water…who has the water? Keep a glass handy.

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