Friday, July 1, 2011

Keeping Aging Parents Hydrated and Cool this Holiday and Summer

Hope everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July! This can be a terrific holiday because it's more low key than some of the others. Picnics, BBQs, potlucks, pool parties. Time to relax and enjoy the summer that stretches out before us. Take time to enjoy yourselves and refresh yourselves.

This is also a time to take note of the HOT weather we can expect over the next few months. Older people tend to "run cold" and may not notice that it's really HOT until they are overheated. I've visited many an elderly patient who kept the heat on in the summer with a median temperature of 80+ degrees inside! So make note of your aging parent's habits and have them turn down the heat and step up the fluid intake to stay hydrated.

Watch for signs of dehydration such as increased confusion or forgetfulness, slurring of words and increased fatigue. Most older people are resistant to increasing fluids as then they have to urinate more often and sometimes this keeps them up at night. Encourage them to start drinking fluids when they wake up and decreasing them late afternoon and to slow intake after 6 PM. This will help with the "up all night" aspect.

Coffee and tea are dehydrating and if 8 cups of coffee is Mom's idea of increasing fluids, you might see more dehydration. Juices, flavored waters and of course plain water are best. Ice chips, frozen ices, popcycles and jello are also excellent sources of fluids and may be more palatable than plain water. They can also be a great way to sneak in extra fluids without alerting them to the process.

If your aging parents have pets, be sure they give the pet more water during the summer months as well and a shady place to rest.

Close draperies and blinds, use fans to circulate the air. And cool damp rags or a baggie of crushed ice on the head, neck or even in the lap can help to keep them cooler and replace or cut down on air conditioning.

Keep activities to a minimum during the middle of the day when it is the hottest. And remind them to eat. Cool foods such as fruits and fresh veggies may be most appetizing on a hot day. Small frequent snacks or meals work well with hot summer days as opposed to large heavy meals, but remind them to not skip meals.

Have a great holiday weekend and enjoy this time with your aging parents.