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Dehydration and Aging: A New Solution to an Old Problem

Caregiver taking care of an old woman

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


October 26, 2020

Dehydration is the most common fluid and electrolyte problem among the elderly population. Dehydration in seniors can be a problem when it comes to their daily function. Do you ever wonder: “why are older adults at risk for dehydration?”

Learning about dehydration can help you understand why consequences of dehydration in elderly adults can be more serious. You can also learn how to come up with new approaches to ensure adequate hydration in the elderly.

To learn more about dehydration and aging, keep reading. We have compiled information about hydration in the elderly and some tips for making sure that your loved one is adequately hydrated.


Why are the Elderly More Susceptible to Becoming Dehydrated?

Dehydration is more common in older adults because of their level of susceptibility to many of the risk factors of dehydration. Dehydration is simply an overt loss of fluid within the body. There are many ways that our body can expend too much fluid. Nonetheless, hydration in seniors is very important, and causes of dehydration must not be overlooked.

There are several different causes of dehydration in older adults:

Medications can cause dehydration. You may want to look into what medications your loved ones are taking. They could be taking a pill that causes an increase in urination, such as a diuretic or blood pressure pill.

If you do find that the medication may be causing the dehydration, you will want to make sure that your loved one is taking in enough fluids to replace what is being lost.

Health conditions can cause dehydration. Some health conditions can also cause a loss in fluids, whether by symptoms or mechanisms. For example, diabetes and kidney disease can both cause someone to urinate more frequently.

If you find that your loved one has a health condition that causes fluid loss, you may want to consult a doctor about how to combat this. When in doubt, have them drink more water.

Illness can cause dehydration. Depending on the illness, there may be symptoms that can cause dehydration. For example, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever can all cause dehydration.

If you think this may be the issue, you should encourage your loved one to drink water to replace the lost fluids. However, some people may not be able to keep these fluids down. At that point, you should consult a physician.

Heat exposure can cause dehydration. Your loved one may be spending a lot of time in hot or humid environments. This can also cause a loss of fluid through sweating.

You should make sure that your loved one has access to things like air conditioning, a fan, and other cooling agents to prevent fluid loss. You should keep in mind that elderly people have trouble keeping a constant body temperature, causing them to be more susceptible to high temperatures.

Mobility issues can cause dehydration. Believe it or not, the ability for your senior to get up and get water can actually cause dehydration. If they can’t get up to get a glass and fill it with water, they’re less likely to drink water.

Make sure that your senior has access to water whenever they need it. The more convenient it is, the more likely they are to drink it.


What Are the Symptoms of Dehydration?

There are several symptoms that you can look out for when it comes to dehydration in seniors. Some of the most common signs and symptoms include dry mouth, generalized weakness, a decrease in the frequency of urination, dark urine, generalized body aches, and lightheadedness.

There are some more serious symptoms that come with urgent dehydration. If you find that your loved one has any of these symptoms, you should seek out medical attention for them as soon as possible:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Trouble walking


What Could Happen If They Don’t Receive Medical Attention?

If you find that your loved one has any of the more serious symptoms, you should make sure that they get medical attention. If they don’t receive medical attention, you could be looking at some serious complications.

Your loved one could develop heat exhaustion or heat stroke if their dehydration was caused by high temperatures.

They could also develop seizure-like activity. This is the body’s response to low levels of potassium and sodium. Without enough water, these electrolytes will deplete, making it key to keenly look out for geriatric dehydration symptoms.

Your loved one could also develop urinary and/or kidney problems. There are several different conditions that they could develop, including urinary tract infections, kidney stones, kidney failure, kidney infection, and more.

Arguably, the most serious condition that your loved one could be facing if their dehydration goes untreated is hypovolemic shock. This is a complication of dehydration that is marked by low blood pressure and low oxygen levels. It is your body’s response to having lower than normal blood volume levels due to the decrease in fluids.


How Can I Help Prevent Dehydration?

If you’re looking to prevent dehydration in your loved one, there are several tips and tricks for how to increase fluid intake in elderly adults:

  • Encourage your loved one to drink water throughout the day. It may help to have specific goals to meet at different times in the day.
  • Let them know that taking small sips of water is okay as many elderly adults complain that drinking too much liquid causes nausea and stomach pain.
  • You should encourage your loved one to eat more foods that have a higher water content. Many of these foods are fruits and vegetables that you can include in their regular diet. Soups are also high in water content and easier for some seniors to ingest.


How Can I Ensure My Loved One’s Care?

If you’re looking for more help to ensure that your loved one does not suffer from dehydration, you should look into home care. At Commonwise, we pride ourselves on our ability to give wonderful at-home personal care.

We have a variety of services that your family might find useful, especially if you believe that your loved one may suffer from dehydration or another illness in the future.

Contact us today to make your first at-home appointment. Read more about our at home care services or call our Care Team today at 434.202.8565.

Disclaimer: Please check with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise, or medication routine.