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dehydration in the elderly

The Effects of Dehydration on Seniors and the Elderly 

Caregivers should be aware of the signs of dehydration in the elderly. While people of all ages can become dehydrated, seniors are at a higher risk. 

As the body ages, physiological changes occur, such as reduced thirst signals, making it harder for seniors to recognize they need more fluids. 

The body needs a specific amount of fluids to work efficiently, as the right amount of water gets nutrients to the cells and organs, regulates body temperature and heart rate, and plays a role in mood and cognition. 

As a caregiver, monitoring your loved one and providing around-the-clock care may be challenging. If your loved one struggles to complete daily tasks and care for themselves, you may be interested in an assisted living or memory care community. 

Learn more about dehydration risk factors, signs of dehydration, how to treat and prevent dehydration, and where to find a compassionate care team and community. 

Dehydration risk factors in seniors

With age, the amount of fluid in our bodies begins to decrease, making it essential for seniors to maintain their fluid. 

When a senior begins to lose more fluids than they are taking in, they won’t have any reserves, as a younger person may have.

Many seniors are on medications such as laxatives or diuretics, which can lead to dehydration if they are not drinking enough water with their medication. 

Urinary incontinence can also be a risk factor since it can make seniors reluctant to drink fluids. With the feeling that they always need to use the bathroom, they may not feel that they are becoming dehydrated. 

Seniors with memory diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, may forget to drink water or other fluids if they are not reminded. 

Those with Parkinson’s disease and mobility problems can have difficulties keeping up with their fluid intake if they don’t have someone to help them. 

Seniors with swallowing difficulties may struggle to maintain the right amount of fluids if they struggle to drink or eat. Often, a speech therapist can help seniors with swallowing issues. 

Diarrhea, vomiting and excessive sweating from the stomach flu, COVID-19, fevers, and hot weather can all increase the risks of dehydration in the elderly, making it important for them to be monitored when sick or outdoors in high temperatures. 

Signs of dehydration 

Generally, when an individual becomes dehydrated, they will feel thirsty. This may not be true for seniors, especially those with dementia or who have had a stroke. 

Common symptoms of dehydration in the elderly include: 

  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • Dry lips 
  • Dry papery skin
  • Dark-colored urine 
  • Less frequent urine
  • Sunken eyes
  • Headache 
  • Cramping in the limbs
  • Dizziness 
  • Weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Irritability 

More severe symptoms to be aware of: 

  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • High heart rate
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Delirium 
  • Bloated stomach 

Prevent dehydration by keeping your loved one hydrated

The most important strategy for preventing dehydration is ensuring your senior loved one has a sufficient fluid intake. It’s recommended that adults drink a minimum of five eight-ounce glasses of water a day. 

The next best way to keep your loved one hydrated is to offer them lots of vegetables and fruits. 

Water-rich foods include watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, peaches, oranges, cucumbers, celery, lettuce, zucchini, bell peppers, cabbage, grapefruit, and tomatoes. 

When the sun is out you and your loved one may be eager to get outdoors and enjoy the weather. You can enjoy a great day together if you practice sun safety. 

On hot days, remember to dress your loved one in cooler clothing, pack them a sun hat or visor, sunscreen, and extra water. If you notice the temperatures increasing, find a cool place in the shade to rest, and always watch your loved one for symptoms of dehydration. 

During illnesses, such as a stomach bug, ensure that your loved one is drinking more fluids to compensate for the fluids they’re losing. 

Treating dehydration in seniors

Recognizing and treating dehydration in seniors early can help prevent heat injuries, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, urinary and kidney problems, seizures, and low blood volume shock. 

If your loved one is showing mild signs of dehydration, you can treat it by giving your loved one more fluids. Water or tea will help, but drinks with electrolytes may work better and quicker. 

Most seniors experiencing mild dehydration will improve within 5-10 minutes of drinking these fluids. 

Moderate dehydration will require more than fluids by mouth and needs to be treated with intravenous hydration in the emergency room.

If your loved one has severe dehydration, they may require short-term dialysis and additional intervention to support their kidneys. 

As a caregiver, watching your loved one 24 hours a day may be challenging. 

If you’re worried that you cannot offer your loved one enough care, an assisted living or memory care community may help. 

Staff are trained to monitor fluid intake, assist seniors who need help drinking or eating, look out for signs of dehydration, and act immediately if symptoms appear.  

A care team for your loved one 

The Kensington Falls Church is an assisted living and memory care community that has made it Our Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own. 

With compassionate staff, high acuity care, and secure grounds, your loved one will be safe and have the opportunity to live a higher quality of life. 

Our goal is to ensure our residents are happy, healthy, and comfortable. 

This is what our communities offer:

  • Life enrichment activities
  • Exquisite dining services
  • On-site rehabilitation services
  • Health and wellness programs
  • Around-the-clock care
  • On-site nursing
    • CNA’s 
    • LPN’s
    • RN’s

Contact us to learn more about our cozy homes, amenities, caregiver resources, and upcoming events.

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