Dehydration In The Elderly: Signs And Prevention

Dehydration In The Elderly

Dehydration is a condition when the body doesnít have enough fluid to work properly. The body needs water for several processes, including getting rid of wastes, regulating your temperature, and lubricating the joints.

Staying hydrated is crucial, but more important for the elderly. Continue reading this to learn more about seniors and dehydration, the common symptoms, and prevention.

Dehydration in the Elderly

Seniors and older adults are more prone to dehydration for numerous reasons. Risk factors include:

  • Reduced Thirst Response

Feeling thirsty is the bodyís way to let you know you need water. This thirst response, however, becomes weaker with age. So, seniors may not feel thirsty as frequently.

  • A Decline in Body Fluid

With age, the amount of fluid in the body starts to decrease. This means that we have fewer water reserves for the body to use as we get older.

  • Slower Kidney Function

Kidney function also declines with age. Thus, more water is lost during urination.

  • Limited Mobility

Older people are often frail and have difficulty walking on their own. Thus, they may be less likely to get up and drink water for themselves or depend on others to offer them fluids.

  • Medications and Health Conditions

Most older adults tend to take medications or have underlying health conditions. In some cases, such medications or conditions can lead to significant water loss through urination.

The Signs of Dehydration in Older Adults

Dehydration symptoms in the elderly may sometimes be hard to recognize. If you think your aging parent is dehydrated, then you can check for a reduction in skin elasticity, pulling up the skin on the back of the hand. If the skin doesnít return to normal immediately, then it could be a sign of dehydration.

Other more common signs of dehydration include:

  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Dry mouth
  • Decrease in urination
  • Sunken eyes
  • Muscle cramping
  • Darker colored urine
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

The more serious dehydration signs and symptoms requiring immediate medical attention include:

  • Fainting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that lasts longer than 24 hours
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Trouble with walking or movement

Preventing Elderly Dehydration

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With healthy adults, serious complications because of dehydration are unlikely. Not for seniors, though, as itís more difficult to recognize dehydration in older adults. Potential complications are more likely, including heat strokes, seizures, and kidney problems.

With that said, here are some tips on how to prevent dehydration in older adults:

  • Encouraging Small Sips Throughout the Day

A large glass of water may be intimidating to some older adults. So, instead of forcing them to drink a glass of water every few hours, encourage taking small sips throughout the day. A water bottle can be handy for those small drinks every hour. Also, consider keeping their water bottles in places where these are easy to reach.

  • Offering Food With High Water Content

Try to include food with higher water content in an older adultís diet. Some examples include cucumber, watermelon, strawberries, and low sodium soups or broths to keep them hydrated.

  • Mind The Weather

Hot weather causes sweating. Excessive sweating can result in dehydration. This is also true with moisture loss from high altitudes or dry air during cold seasons. So, encourage a senior to drink more water if going out to humid or hot conditions for a prolonged period or if working out.

  • Avoid Diuretic Beverages

Coffee, alcohol, and some protein beverages can increase urination, worsening dehydration. If they donít find water very appealing to drink, then you can try squeezing or adding a slice of lime or lemon to add flavor.

  • Educating Seniors

By educating the elderly on the importance of hydration, you encourage them to drink a lot of water to stay healthy. Always remind them to hydrate throughout the day, particularly during mealtimes, when itís hot, or after workouts.


Elderly adults are more prone to dehydration due to a number of things, including lowered thirst response, underlying health conditions, and reduced body fluids. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of dehydration is crucial so that you can work to replace the lost fluids. Not doing so can be harmful to the body.

By encouraging seniors to drinks a lot of fluids and incorporating the above strategies to get them to drink, you can reduce the risk of your elderly parent being dehydrated and suffering from serious complications.

If youíre unsure of your senior parentsí needs, then make sure to talk to the doctor and find out just how much water they should be drinking every day.