As Derek, the title character in “Zoolander,” said, "Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty." His words were silly, but his intentions were not.
Proper hydration is essential to life. More than half of our bodies are water. Water helps us digest food, keeps joints working properly and maintains blood pressure and body temperature. But many Americans—and many seniors—still do not drink enough water. Elderly dehydration is common both in assisted living or aging-in-place scenarios.
In this post, we'll discuss dehydration matters and why seniors are at such great risk. Then, you'll learn four smart strategies from Derek Zoolander to help prevent senior dehydration.
"I'm a hot little potato right now!"
Dehydration is a major problem for seniors and a leading contributor to elderly hospitalizations. Thirsty seniors have higher risks of falling and more cognitive difficulty. Also, dehydrated seniors face medical conditions like urinary tract infections, kidney stones or constipation. Taken to extremes, severe water loss leads to heat stroke or even death.
Now, the worse news: The natural process of aging makes seniors even more susceptible to dehydration. As we age, our bodies hold less water and we are less aware of body temperature changes. This makes seniors less likely to take in fluids to self-regulate temperature.
Complicating matters, many seniors have difficulty swallowing, so drinking water becomes a painful chore. Further, some seniors restrict their water consumption because of fears of age-related incontinence. Finally, many medications that seniors take cause diuresis, sweating or reduced thirst.
Taken altogether, we've got a recipe for a perfect storm for dehydrated seniors. Let's see what lessons we can learn from international male model Derek Zoolander.
1. The "How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read ... if they can't even fit inside the building?" technique
Derek rejected the school because it was too small for children to fit. But many seniors face the opposite problem. How can we be expected to make sure our seniors drink if they can't even hold the cups?
Know that your seniors also have a certain set of skills, but those are different than they used to be. The 50-ounce Big Gulp that appeals to a 20-something may look like a Crock-Pot to a 70-something. Help them out by focusing on small amounts first.
Make sure your loved ones have appropriately sized cups, utensils and cutlery. Cups with handles or lids or straws may help them drink in a comfortable manner.
Bonus tip: Place small water bottles around the home for seniors to carry around and keep near their bed. This helps seniors with mobility or memory issues get easy access to water.
2. The "Orange Mocha Frappuccino" technique
Derek's friends helped him sort through important issues over a few Orange Mocha Frappuccinos. Derek and company knew they could get fluids from non-water sources as well.
Ignore the old "eight glasses of water" rule. Savvy seniors consume fluids in many variations. Add lemon or fruit to water as a hydration hack to make water taste better. One note of caution, though: Seniors should steer clear of alcohol and sugary sports beverages. The former has diuretic effects and the latter may aggravate diabetes.
Seniors can also add fluids by having soup with every meal. Opt for water or broth based soups rather than cream based soups.
Also, many plant-based foods have high water content. Melons, grapefruit, strawberries and raw tomatoes are great natural sources. Throw in raw vegetables and you have a nutritious and hydrating combination.
3. The "Listen to your friend Billy Zane, he's a cool dude!" technique
When Zoolander needed help, his friend, actor Billy Zane, was there. Be like Billy, and be a friend to a senior in need.
Tell your senior to check his weight daily. Weight loss may be an early sign of dehydration. If he is down a pound, make sure he drinks it up. Also, ask your senior to check his urine color. Make sure his urine is lemonade colored or lighter.
Not everyone lives close enough to their senior to provide daily hydration reminders. Remote caregivers should consider a medical reminder service. Medical reminder services check in with your senior at the same time(s) every day. These systems help make sure he/she remembers to drink enough water (or take proper medications) every day.
4. The "You can read minds?" technique
In one of the most memorable scenes in the film, Zoolander mistakes Matilda for a clairvoyant.
Well, Matilda couldn't read minds and neither can you.
Rather than try to intuit how much water your senior is drinking, find out for sure. Option number one is to ask on a weekly basis. Let's try option number two.
Home water delivery services can help seniors get enough water. If you deliver two bottles of water each month, you can use the delivery amounts to ensure your senior is consuming enough water. If the bottles aren't moving fast, then your senior isn't drinking enough.
Derek Zoolander only had one skill, "being really, really, really good looking." Perhaps you don't have chiseled abs and perfect cheek bones. But, you can use the four techniques above and keep your senior “mer-man” safe and hydrated.
Shayne Fitz-Coy is an NAHB Certified Aging In Place Expert and has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Harvard as well as a Master's in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home. As the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company, Shayne writes about issues that matter to seniors and those that care about them.