Category Archives: Wellness

How to Be a Heavy Drinker: Hydration for Seniors

As I write this article, we are not experiencing particularly warm weather in Iowa. It’s 64 degrees in June but as soon as I blink it’ll be 101. Hot weather brings up the topic for this month’s informational article. However, hydration is not the only concern for seniors when the weather is warm.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to dehydration. Some of them include diarrhea, vomiting, overheating, diabetes, diuretic medications, high fever and excessive sweating. If you experience any of these, be aware and make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids.

You may ask yourself: What is hydration? Well, it refers to a person’s body water balance. Dehydration, which is the real problem, occurs when people don’t have enough fluid in their bodies. Many seniors have problems with hydration. Dehydration is both a serious problem and easy to prevent. If not treated it could result in death.

What puts seniors at greater risk for dehydration? First, is that the ability to feel thirst lessens with age; seniors may not realize when they need to drink more. They may also be using the bathroom more frequently which means they are losing more fluid. Another factor is that as we age we lose muscle and gain fat. Muscle holds water, fat does not. As we age the amount of water in the body decreases. In addition, medications that increase urination or help with constipation can also put seniors at risk for dehydration.

So what should you look for in order to know if you are dehydrated? Symptoms include thirst, dry mouth, dark yellow urine, fatigue and irritability. If it progresses to dizziness, blackouts when sitting up or standing, confusion, muscle weakness or cramping, sunken eyes, low blood pressure or increased heart rate you need to go to the ER or contact your doctor immediately: these are life threatening symptoms.

If you’re not a big fan of dehydration there are steps you can take to be proactive: don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, by this time you’re already experiencing dehydration.

Try carrying a water bottle with you so you can take drinks frequently, aim for a minimum of eight cups of water each day. When the temperature rises, increase your fluid intake, too. This will help replenish what is lost when we sweat. We should all start and end the day with a cup of water. Do not substitute alcohol or caffeinated drinks for water. Last but not least, know the signs and symptoms of dehydration so that you can take action immediately.

Take care, keep hydrated and enjoy the warm weather…..whenever it returns.

The Continental at St. Joseph’s is the leading assisted living community in southern Iowa, located in Centerville.


By: Kristen Sheston

Kristen Sheston is the Assistant Administrator at The Continental at St. Joseph’s

Spotlight on Senior Health: Identifying Malnutrition and Ways to Combat It

Good nutrition is important for people of all ages, especially seniors who may be facing several obstacles to a healthy diet. For families and caregivers, knowing what to look for and possible causes for inadequate nutrition can be a life saver– literally.

Identifying the causes of malnutrition may seem obvious: not eating, not getting enough nutrients, or possibly a medical condition. But malnutrition is often caused by a combination of physical, social and psychological factors. For example:

• Health problems: decreased appetite, certain medications, trouble chewing, difficulty absorbing nutrients.
• Limited income or social contact: trouble affording groceries with the cost of expensive medications. Seniors eating along may not enjoy meals and lose interest in eating.
• Depression: loneliness, poor health, and decreased mobility may contribute to depression and loss of appetite.
• Alcoholism: acting as a substitute for meals. Alcohol also decreases the appetite.
• Restricted diets: limited salt, fat, protein and sugar can be bland and unappealing.

When an insufficient diet goes undetected it may lead to fatigue, depression, weakened immune system and risk of infection, reduced red blood count (anemia), muscle weakness which can then lead to falls and fractures, digestive, lung and heart problems and poor skin integrity. Proper nutrition is particularly important for older adults who are seriously ill and those who suffer from dementia or experience weight loss.

The first step to combating this issue with your loved one is knowing what to look for. Take time to observe their eating habits and not just at special occasions. If they live alone, who buys his or her groceries? If they live in a long term care facility, visit during mealtimes. Next, look for the physical signs: poor healing, easy bruising, dental problems and weight loss (changes in how clothing fits). Finally, know their medications. Many drugs have an effect on appetite, digestion and the absorption of nutrients.

So what can you do if you suspect malnutrition? Start by encouraging your loved one to eat foods packed with nutrients; add nut butters, fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs and cheese to food. Another easy way can be to wake up bland foods by experimenting with herbs and spices or lemon juice. You can also seek the help of a dietician with this step. Planning between-meal snacks can be particularly helpful since older adults tend to get full quickly. Try making mealtime a social event by joining them or encouraging them to eat with others. By encouraging daily physical activity, the appetite is stimulated and bones and muscles become stronger. If cost is a concern, try providing money saving tips like clipping coupons or watching sales. Encourage them to visit restaurants that offer senior discounts. Visit with your loved one’s doctor about changing medications that affect appetite.

Remember, identification and treatment of nutrition problems early on can promote good health, independence and increased longevity. Assisted living communities like The Continental at St. Joseph’s can ensure that your loved one is getting three well-balanced each day. If you suspect signs of malnutrition be sure to take steps now to ensure your loved one’s health.

Kristen Sheston is the Assistant Administrator at The Continental at St. Joseph’s, the leading assisted living community in southern Iowa, located in Centerville.

More information is available at

Bucket List

A “Bucket List” is a new phenomenon based on a movie of the same name in which two terminally ill men try to fulfill a wish list known as “The Bucket List” before each kicks the bucket. After they break out of a cancer ward, they head off on a road trip with an itinerary that includes racing cars, eating giant plates of caviar and slinging poker chips in Monte Carlo.

In April, several Continental at St. Joseph”s tenants in Centerville, Iowa welcomed Amy Crawford of Iowa Hospice to do an activity based on The Bucket List. The tenants of the assisted living facility identified items that were needs, such as food, medication and shelter. Next, participants pinpointed their wants, which might include going on a cruise, seeing a family member they have lost touch with, or attending an exercise class a few times a week. I was surprised at some of the things that our tenants were dreaming of!

The Bucket List idea can be taken in many different directions. Recently, I read an article in The Journal of Active Aging about a triad of retirement communities that implemented a wellness program that dared its residents to partake in their “100 Ways to Wellness Challenge.” “Our 100 Ways to Wellness program was a list of 100 wellness tasks designed to inspire residents to step outside of their comfort zones and engage in life in very meaningful ways,” said Allison Pait, Wellness Director and one of three creators of the program. Some of the 100 Ways to Wellness include bringing your own coffee mug instead of using Styrofoam, inviting a neighbor over for tea and learning to send an email.

Kisco Senior living also encouraged participants in the program to journal their progress and then rewarded them with drawings each time they completed one of the tasks. In addition to journaling, taking pictures of what an accomplished goal looks like, could be very motivating.

After reading this article, I was inspired to write my own bucket list and I challenge you to do the same. What do you want? What do you need? What will it take for you to feel fulfilled? How great would it feel to do something you’ve been dreaming of?

I invite you to take a step outside of your comfort zone. Try something new. Prove someone wrong. I guarantee, you’ll feel amazing inside and out.

Kristen Sheston is Assistant Administrator at The Continental at St. Joseph’s, Inc. in Centerville, Iowa. More information is available at