Nutritional therapist Erjastiina Heikkinen

Important for older adults to drink enough during the summer heat

Adequate hydration is essential for older people during the summer. Older adults naturally have a lower volume of water in their bodies and may have conditions or take medications that increase the risk of dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration can appear surprisingly quickly.

As you age, your body's fluid reserve becomes smaller and your ability to conserve water is reduced. In addition, your thirst sense becomes less acute, and the functioning of the body's thermoregulation system and kidneys weakens. Therefore, paying particular attention to your liquid intake during hot weather is crucial.

- Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn't have enough water and other fluids to perform its normal functions. If you don't replace lost fluids, you will get dehydrated. Signs and symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, dry mouth, confusion, less frequent urination, swelling of the lower limbs, nausea, headache, and constipation, says nutritional therapist Erjastiina Heikkinen.

How much liquid intake is enough?

The adequate daily fluid intake for older people is more significant than for younger ones. The recommended amount is about 1-1.5 litres per day. During hot weather, the amount should be increased by a few more glasses.

- Good drinks to consume include water and mineral water. In addition to drinking plenty of fluids, you can also consume water-rich foods to fulfil the daily quota. Especially in summer, various soups, porridges, fruits, berries and vegetables are good food options, as they contain a lot of liquid. Sometimes you'll be able to consume liquid foods more easily if you have a poor appetite, Erjastiina says.

How can you tell if you are drinking enough?

Sometimes you may become forgetful if your body's fluid balance is not in order. Therefore, monitoring your or your loved one's liquid intake is advisable.

- For example, you can put water in a jug and easily observe if you have had enough to drink during the day, Erjastiina suggests.

Your general feeling also says a lot. If you feel tired and irritable, you probably have not had enough to drink.

- If a flower has enough water, it is upright and alive. If it droops, it needs to be watered quickly. It's the same with us, Erjastiina says.

What to do if dehydration occurs?

If dehydration has caught you off guard, drinking is the first step. You can usually reverse mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids, but severe dehydration needs immediate medical treatment.

- You should drink anything at hand right away. In the summer heat, mineral waters are good because they maintain the body's balance of fluid and salt. You can also drink sports drinks, even if you have not been exercising. Lowering the temperature in the room, ventilating the space, and wearing light clothes will also help you feel better.

- You do not need to stick to strictly drinking water. It's advisable to enjoy drinks like juice or berry soup too, especially if you don't have an appetite to eat, Erjastiina says.

How to drink enough?

Erjastiina has some good tips to keep yourself hydrated if you easily forget to drink.

- Try making drinking a pleasant activity. Sometimes even a beautiful water jug might tempt you to have a sip.

It would help if you remembered to drink throughout the day. Keep your jug of water or juice box on the table as a visible reminder for yourself. You can also link drinking to something you do regularly.

- Drinking can be connected to, for example, toilet visits. Every time you go to the bathroom, have a glass of water afterwards. The activity you link drinking to can be anything, but when it's something regular, it helps you remember. You can also try to schedule drinking by, for example, setting alarms on your phone, Erjastiina says.

Common coffee breaks can also serve as a reminder to drink.

- You can remind your loved one to have a drink by doing so yourself. It's also a good idea to serve your relative or friend drinks they enjoy. If you are terribly worried, you can keep count of the number of glasses consumed. This, of course, requires that you are present.

- Thirst isn't always a reliable indicator of the body's need for water. Many people, particularly older adults, don't feel thirsty until they're already dehydrated. That's why it's important to increase water intake during hot weather, Erjastiina says.

Do coffee and alcohol count?

- Caffeine removes liquid, but it probably won't have a significant effect if you are a regular coffee drinker. If coffee starts replacing meals, then it's good to stop and re-evaluate, Erjastiina notes.

Alcohol is something Erjastiina recommends avoiding on hot summer days.

- Alcohol has a more substantial effect on older people. If you are dehydrated and enjoy an alcoholic beverage, the consequences might be very uncomfortable.