In Montreal, urban heat islands contribute to dehydration in the elderly and increase the risk of mortality during heatwaves. Temperature differences of several degrees are observed between Montreal and the surrounding rural areas. What’s more, one of the current consequences of climate change is an increase in the frequency and duration of heatwaves, which can give rise to “super heatwaves”. Dehydration leads to an upsurge in hospitalizations among seniors during the summer in Montreal. Medical care adaptations in Montreal seniors’ residences can help them cope better with the effects of the heat.
What are the risks of dehydration in the elderly?
An elderly person is more likely to experience common signs of dehydration. This can manifest itself in many ways, including increased thirst, dry and sticky mouth, irritability, reduced underarm perspiration, lethargy and fatigue, headaches and dizziness, dark yellow urine, or loss of skin elasticity.
Heatstroke and dehydration can lead to loss of consciousness and death.
Elderly people are much more sensitive to the heat of a heatwave, especially when they :
- has a loss of autonomy.
- lives in physical and social isolation.
- is on medication. Many drugs interfere with the body’s thermoregulation, such as diuretics, antiarrhythmics, antiparkinsonian drugs and others.
- suffers from chronic conditions or diseases that may reduce heat tolerance, including cardiovascular, pulmonary, renal and neurological diseases, diabetes and hypertension.
In addition, due to age, we can note :
- reduced reflex to drink.
- changes in renal function.
- an inability to retain water, due to physical immobility. Some medical conditions, such as dementia, cause this incapacity.
- the body tends to retain less fluid.
When a symptom or sign of dehydration is detected, rehydration treatment should be started immediately. Contact a doctor if the condition worsens.
How do you rehydrate an elderly person in Montreal?
Preventing dehydration in the elderly requires a wide range of interventions and changes to habits.
Habits to adopt during a heatwave heatwave
- Drink regularly.
- Eat “liquid” foods. For example: broths, sweet gazpacho, Jell-O, ice cream or a three-melon salad.
- Supplement fluid intake by eating water-rich vegetables and fruit, such as cucumber, lettuce, berries, melon, pear, apple and citrus fruit.
- Take cold soups with meals, and fruit compotes as a snack or dessert.
Here are some additional tips to prevent dehydration in the elderly
- Take a few sips of water at a time.
- Bring one of the new connected water bottles (it lights up when it’s time to drink!). A family member or friend can help fill in the profile: geographical region, age, gender, weight, daily goal.
- Keep a jug or bottle of water close by.
- Does an elderly person dislike water? Prepare delicious infusions with fresh herbs or fruit, and store them in the fridge. There’s no limit to the great-tasting thirst-quenching water-based beverages you can concoct.
- Drink vegetable juice or unsweetened fruit juice with meals.
- Suck on ice cubes or popsicles.
What should you do in hot weather?
- Stay indoors, preferably in an air-conditioned room.
- If there’s no air conditioner at home, visit a family member or friend, go to the mall, or watch a movie at the cinema.
- Dress lightly in materials that allow the skin to breathe properly.
- Avoid sun exposure and outdoor activities.
- Avoid physical exertion.
- Give regular updates to those around you.
- Watch carefully for signs of dehydration.
Preventing dehydration in the elderly involves a number of individual adaptations and changes to habits in a seniors’ residence. It’s important to integrate these practices into medical care in Montreal’s seniors’ residences.
Manoir Gouin, aware of the increased risks that hot weather poses to seniors in Montreal, has modified its services accordingly, to include the prevention of dehydration in its care.