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Hydration Hacks: Fluid for Thought

Why hydration matters and five tips for staying hydrated this summer!

Hydration has been an ongoing topic for me and for good reason. Although water is essential for almost ALL bodily functions, older adults are prone to becoming dehydrated for several reasons. Dehydration is a frequent cause of PREVENTABLE hospital admissions. Older adults are more susceptible to dehydration because of:

  1. Decreased thirst sensation with age

  2. Body composition changes that result in less water in the body

  3. Medications have been known to increase the risk of dehydration

  4. Fear of multiple bathroom breaks or urinary frequency

Occupational therapists can help people identify different strategies that can be incorporated into a daily routine to help people stay healthy and active. If you have followed me, you know that I LOVE talking about hydration. I have been working with older adults for over 15 years and I have worked with several clients who were admitted to the hospital with dehydration.

This gets me fired up because:

  1. No want wants to spend their time in the ER or hospital (where you are more likely to pick up more germs).

  2. Often dehydration is PREVENTABLE!

Read below for my top tips to stay hydrated and healthy!

Tip #1 - Fancy Water

Water is king, but drinking plain water can get boring. Many people report that their tastes change as they get older. If you don't like the taste of water, you are not likely to drink enough. Fancy water is adding fruit, herbs, or other flavors to boost your water. I LOVE adding fruit to my water, but there are also several options of pre-packaged flavor enhancers you can find at the grocery store. Here are some tips for spicing up your water

  1. Keep frozen fruit on hand. Tossing a frozen strawberry in your water is a quick and easy way to add some flavor.

  2. Keep a variety of pre-packaged flavor enhancers (try to avoid those flavored with aspartame)

  3. Herbal tea makes a great water substitute

  4. Make a pitcher of fancy water to keep on hand in your fridge (bonus points if it is a clear container - we eat/drink first with our eyes). If your water "looks" pretty you are more likely to drink it.

  5. Play around with different flavor combinations (strawberry lime, cucumber lemon, berry mix...)

Check out this resource for different fancy water combinations to try.

InfusedWater0517 (1)
Download PDF • 459KB

"“reluctant drinkers” consumed 159% more water when flavor was added." - Journal of Psychology and Behavior

Tip #2 - Find the right container

The right drinking container can make a big difference. Right now, the big Stanley tumblers are super popular, but they can be heavy and hard to manage. If you have arthritis in your hands or use a walker or a cane for mobility, the right container is even more important. If your water container is not easy to use, you are less likely to drink enough. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Weight - ensure your cup/container is not too heavy. When the container is full, you should be able to easily carry it.

  2. Lid - Is the lid easy to open and close? Does your lid have any openings (straw or drinking spout). If you use a walker, it is nice to have a lid that seals, so you don't have to worry about spilling it.

  3. Straw - Do you prefer to drink from a straw or not?

  4. Handles - A cup with a wide handle can make it easier to hold and carry the container.

Check out this water body buying guide for more info and my top pick.

Water Bottle Guide
Download PDF • 1.16MB

Tip #3 - Consider a bladder training program

Many of my clients tell me that they don't drink much water because they are worried about running to the bathroom so much. As a therapist who does home-based visits, I understand this. It is such a bummer to be on the road and need to find a place for a bathroom stop; however, there are some things we can do to improve our bladder control. I HIGHLY recommend you follow up with a pelvic floor therapist for specific concerns about bladder control or urinary frequency. There are occupational and physical therapists who specialize in helping people with bladder control. Missouri Baptist Hospital has an excellent pelvic floor rehab team

Here are some very basic tips to get you started

  1. Keep a journal. Track how often you go, what times you go, how much you go, and how much you drink in a day. This information will be helpful to your pelvic health therapist or to your doctor to help determine the best treatment plan for you.

  2. Try to keep a voiding schedule. It can be helpful to get your bladder on a set schedule of planned intervals. Avoid going "just in case". This will make your schedule ineffective

  3. Use distraction. Try to avoid going right away. Remain calm and tell yourself self "I will go in 5 minutes" and try to distract yourself.

  4. Gradually increase the time between your scheduled bathroom breaks.

Tip #4 - Eat your water

It can be helpful to plan foods with high water content in your diet. The following foods can have a high water content:


2. fruit

3. vegetables

4. jello

5. popsicles

Tip #5 - Make hydration part of your routine

Building a routine around hydration can help make it an automatic habit. Consider your current daily routine. When is a good time to add in more water or hydrating habit? When looking to build habits, it is helpful to attach your new habit to an old habit. For example: if you have a habit of taking an afternoon walk you might be able to add in having a large fruit water after your walk. Consider these ideas for creating a hydration routine.

  1. Drink a whole glass of water with your morning medications.

  2. Drink a glass of water before meals.

  3. Drink water before exercise.

  4. Have afternoon tea or fancy water with friends.

  5. Set a water/fluid goal for the day and reward yourself.


Now that you have taken the steps to stay hydrated you can enjoy the many health benefits of proper hydration including:

  1. Lubricate and cushion joints

  2. Improved mood

  3. Improved sleep

  4. Improved mental function

  5. Improved energy

"You’ll be able to think faster, focus more clearly and experience greater clarity when your brain is functioning on a full reserve of water."

- Dr. Fayaz

 While there are some general recommendations about how much water you need to stay hydrated, each person is different. It is important to talk to your primary care doctor about how much water you need to stay healthy. I hope you all stay cool and healthy this summer!

Thanks for reading!

Jenny OT

Jenny Williams, OTR/L, PPOTD, CAPS

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