A dehydration problem in older adults can arrive quickly. Some symptoms come on suddenly, and you immediately know something is wrong: severe pain, shortness of breath, and fainting, to name a few. Others are slow and sneaky, creating serious health complications before you even realise there is a problem. One of the biggest causes of these types of issues, is dehydration.
Water is necessary for nearly every bodily function, from lubricating joints to regulating body temperature and pumping blood to the muscles. It helps you digest your food, absorb nutrients, and get rid of waste. But too little water in the body can also cause a variety of serious health problems, including urinary tract infections, falls, kidney stones, and more.
Drinking enough water is important for everyone, but especially for older adults who are at greater risk for dehydration.
Why is dehydration such a problem in older adults?
Older adults are more likely to become dehydrated because
- Older adults naturally have less water in their bodies.
- As you age, your sense of thirst diminishes. So even when your body needs to be replenished with water, you might not realize it.
To make matters worse, when you don’t have enough fluids, you naturally become even less thirsty and drink less water.
- Older adults are generally less thirsty, but they also have a decreased ability to keep fluid levels balanced in the body.
- And they are also more likely to have health conditions or take medicines that increase their risk of dehydration. Many medications actually require good hydration to work properly. Yet, at the same time work against good hydration. Blood pressure medications, for example, actually flush water from the body. Whilst others cause side effects like diarrhea or excessive sweating.
- Some health problems might also cause you to be dehydrated.
– Alzheimer’s disease
– Having a stroke
– Kidney disease
– Poor hormone response
– Problems swallowing
– Poorly controlled diabetes
- Older adults are also more sensitive to heat. So, if they’re outside in the summer and don’t drink enough water, they can quickly become dehydrated.
- Dehydration can also be caused by depression. Sometimes you might not feel like eating or drinking and you might not take in enough fluid.
Health risks of dehydration
Dehydration can cause serious health problems, including:
- Problems with memory
- Poor concentration
- Slow reaction times
- Feeling extra tired
- More falls
- Pressure sores
- Skin conditions
- Urinary tract infections
- Kidney problems
Symptoms of dehydration in seniors
Early dehydration symptoms often go unrecognized in older adults, because many of the signs of mild dehydration could easily be caused by other health conditions or medication side effects. But it’s far easier to correct mild dehydration than deal with the complications of serious dehydration symptoms.
Being familiar with the signs helps you take action sooner rather than later.
Mild dehydration symptoms
- Dry mouth
- Dark-colored urine or very small amount of urine
- Muscle cramps in limbs
- Feeling weak or unwell
- Being sleepy or irritable
Serious dehydration symptoms
- Low blood pressure
- Difficulty walking
- Fast, but weak pulse
- Bloated stomach
- Wrinkled skin with no elasticity
- Dry and sunken eyes
- Breathing faster than normal
- Severe cramping and muscle contractions in the body
How much water do seniors need?
So how much is enough?
On average, an adult should aim to drink for 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day.
However, because each older adult takes different medications and has different health conditions, it’s important to talk with their doctor to find out how much water is best for their body
If they thought of consuming 8 glasses of water is overwhelming, try some of these simple tricks.
Tips for staying dehydrated
- Get in the habit of keeping a glass of water constantly on hand. Or if you prefer, fill a reusable water bottle and take it with you wherever you go.
- You will end up subconsciously sipping on it throughout the day, and you might be surprised at how much you drink.
- Drink a full glass of water when you take a pill.
- Enjoy a cup of low-fat soup as an afternoon snack.
- Broths and soups count as fluid intake.
- Add a few slices of lemon or orange, or leaves of mint to your water to give it a fresh taste, making it easier to drink more.
- Take sips of water between bites of your meal.
- Tea counts. Coffee doesn’t. So, take more tea breaks
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