Dehydration in Older Adults

Older adults are particularly susceptible to being dehydrated due to the physiological changes related to growing older. It is important for the senior population to be cognizant of their water levels, as dehydration can lead to falls, kidney stones, UTI’s, and other health issues. 

Causes of Dehydration in Seniors

  • Water retention decreases as you age. Older adults naturally have less water in their bodies.
  • Seniors have decreased sensitivity to thirst. Being less sensitive to the feeling of being thirsty can lead to decreased water intake.
  • Kidney function decreases as you age, which can cause an imbalance in fluid regulation. This causes less water retention in the body, dehydrating the cells and making the urine contain more water.
  • Many health conditions and medications can lead to dehydration. Medications such as diuretics and laxatives can cause the body to lose large amounts of fluid.
  • Inadequate fluid intake is a preventable risk factor of dehydration. This can be related to the inability to feed independently or having poor availability and access to fluids. This can also relate to decreased thirst sensation.

Signs of Dehydration in Older Adults

  • Dark colored urine or small amounts of urine
  • Dry mouth or extreme thirst
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness or headache
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Muscle cramping or weakness
  • Sunken eyes

Prevention of Dehydration

  • Encourage your loved one to drink even if they’re not thirsty—seniors have a decreased sensitivity to thirst.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption and minimize the amount of caffeine intake due to their diuretic effect. This can exacerbate dehydration.
  • Encourage small drinks throughout the day and have a water bottle handy. Start with frequent small sips rather than large glasses of water.
  • If your loved one has memory problems, our Happier at Home caregivers can help give reminders to stay hydrated.
  • Have foods with high water content handy. Fruits, vegetables, and even yogurt can help seniors stay hydrated.
  • Be aware of hot and humid conditions or dry air in the winter where seniors can lose body fluid and moisture. Have a bottle of water handy in these situations to keep fluid levels balanced throughout the day.

Drinking enough water can reduce constipation, decrease risk of falls, and reduce risk of urinary tract infections. To help encourage your loved one to stay hydrated, our caregivers can give reminders, keep water in places where it’s easy to reach, and implement easier access to the bathroom if there’s a concern about not making it to the bathroom soon enough.