The risk of dehydration increases as we age. With necessary body functions already beginning to decline, it's crucial for seniors to combat dehydration with frequent fluid intake throughout the day. Especially with studies showing that dehydration can negatively impact longevity in the elderly, fluid intake is a fundamental component of a healthy diet for seniors. With some people beginning to experience reduced physical and cognitive ability after losing just 2% to 3% of body fluid, it's crucial for older adults to hydrate long before they feel thirsty.

In this article, we'll review the causes, risks, and signs of dehydration in seniors. With this information, family members and caregivers may work to prevent and address dehydration before it becomes severe.

Increased Dehydration With Age

There are multiple key reasons behind increasing risk for dehydration with older age, namely:

  • The amount of water in the body of an 80-year-old is approximately 15% lower than the amount of water in the body of a 20-year-old. With the natural water level in the body lowering gradually with age, older adults will become dehydrated faster than their younger counterparts.
  • Muscle mass lowers with age and can cause difficulties in retaining water for seniors.
  • Kidney function begins to decline at about age 50. With this downward progression of the kidneys comes a lessened ability to retain water.
  • The feeling of thirst lessens with age, so older adults don't receive as many natural cues to drink water. This can lead to the consumption of fewer liquids and, therefore, dehydration.
  • Appetite diminishes as people age, leading to lower caloric intake for adults in older age. Much of the fluids that we take income from food, so seniors are inherently at an increased risk for dehydration due to their diets.

Risks of Elderly Dehydration

Insufficient hydration in older adults is associated with higher mortality rates. Research into hospitalized patients suffering a stroke showed that patients who were dehydrated had a significantly higher chance than hydrated patients of needing dependent care after discharge or dying in the hospital.

Dehydrated seniors may begin to experience dizziness, fainting, quickened heart rate, confusion, and delirium, as well as fall more frequently than usual, which may lead to injury. Additionally, they may incur infections and fracture bones more easily. Severe symptoms of dehydration in the elderly include seizures and even death.

Simply put, dehydration leads to health complications, some of which could require hospitalization.

Recognizable Signs of Dehydration

Dehydration in seniors can be a difficult problem to spot for caregivers. These signs can be checked for regularly to catch dehydration before it becomes severe:

  • irritability and mood shifts
  • excessive sleepiness
  • weak pulse or quickened heartbeat
  • low blood pressure
  • cold extremities
  • fast breathing
  • clear physical signs of dehydration in the elderly include sunken eyes and trouble walking.
  • lessened urine output
  • constipation
  • inability to sweat or produce tears.

Caregivers may check if a senior is dehydrated by testing skin turgor. Pull up a small section of skin on the back of the senior's hand. The skin will return back to its original state almost instantly in a hydrated person. If it doesn't, the older adult has become dehydrated.

Another way for caregivers to monitor hydration in seniors is to keep an eye on urine color. The urine of a healthy, hydrated older adult will be light in color. Dark urine is a proven sign of dehydration, as is infrequent urination.

Standard Water Recommendations

You may have heard that eight glasses of water per day is the blanket recommendation for everyone. While eight glasses of water daily may certainly be the perfect amount to keep certain people healthy, one has to consider the fact that with varying bodies, diets, and lifestyles, ideal daily water intake will change from person to person. This is especially true among the elderly, who may have extra health considerations that factor into the right volume of water to consume.

One great strategy for measuring hydration is to consider bodyweight. Seniors should weigh themselves each morning. If they've lost two or more pounds from the day before and are experiencing headaches or thirst, they've most likely become dehydrated.

Hydration Tips:

  • For elderly individuals with limited mobility, keeping a glass or bottle of water nearby their common areas is a simple way to increase fluid intake. This will usually be on the bedside table, on the coffee table by the couch or their favorite seat, and on the kitchen table.
  • Seniors should be drinking fluids more frequently than just at mealtimes. Caregivers need to be diligent in encouraging hydration throughout the day, even if the senior doesn't feel thirsty. The feeling of thirst usually doesn't hit until after the senior is already dehydrated, so it's crucial to be proactive about fluid intake.
  • While seniors may eat less than they did in younger age, resultantly taking in less water through food, certain foods have a higher water content than others. Vegetables and fruits are two food groups with high water content. Soups also contain a high amount of water and are a beneficial addition to older adults' diets.
  • in relation to fluid intake and eating, people tend to drink more when they're eating - doing so is a typical habit. So, introducing smaller, more frequent meals and snacks for seniors can be an effective way to raise hydration levels.
  • Seniors may not always want to drink water. A strategy for upping hydration is to offer a variety of healthy beverages to encourage frequent fluid intake. Start with juice as a water alternative.

Conclusion

Drinking more fluids is a straightforward lifestyle habit to adopt. But, it can have far-reaching benefits for the health of seniors. From maintaining healthy body function to reducing the risk for hospitalization, simply drinking enough water is a crucial part of healthy aging.

More from SeniorsMatter.com:

Watching for Signs of Dehydration in Your Elderly Loved One

Sources

"Dehydration in the Elderly." British Nutrition Foundation, British Nutrition Foundation, www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/life/dehydrationelderly.html.

"Elderly Dehydration." A Place for Mom, A Place for Mom, Jan. 2018, www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice/articles/elderly-dehydration.

Leeflang, Jennifer. "Hydration Tips for Seniors." AgingCare.com, AgingCare.com, 12 June 2017, www.agingcare.com/articles/hydration-tips-for-seniors-205594.htm.

Picetti, Dominic et al. "Hydration health literacy in the elderly." Nutrition and healthy aging vol. 4,3 227-237. 7 Dec. 2017, doi:10.3233/NHA-170026

Related Articles

What Are The Anti-Aging Benefits and Dangers of Drinking Collagen Powder? What Are The Anti-Aging Benefits and Dangers of Drinking Collagen Powder?
Eight Common Elderly Problems to Look Out For Eight Common Elderly Problems to Look Out For
Simple Nutrition Tips for Seniors Simple Nutrition Tips for Seniors
Meal Planning for a Senior: Where to Start? Meal Planning for a Senior: Where to Start?
A Food Delivery Service Serves Seniors Too! A Food Delivery Service Serves Seniors Too!
Taste and Smell Change with Age: How Caregivers Can Help Taste and Smell Change with Age: How Caregivers Can Help
Vitamin D Supplements:  Three Great Reasons Vitamin D Supplements: Three Great Reasons
How to Get the Most Accurate Cholesterol Readings How to Get the Most Accurate Cholesterol Readings
Can Cholesterol Drugs Cause Aging, Brain Damage, and Diabetes? Can Cholesterol Drugs Cause Aging, Brain Damage, and Diabetes?
Good and Bad Cholesterol and Aging Good and Bad Cholesterol and Aging
Preventing and Treating Diabetes Preventing and Treating Diabetes
Watching for Signs of Dehydration in Your Elderly Loved One Watching for Signs of Dehydration in Your Elderly Loved One

Trending Topics

The Best Simple Microwave Review 2020 The Best Simple Microwave Review 2020
The Best Wrist Blood Pressure Monitors Of 2020 (Review) The Best Wrist Blood Pressure Monitors Of 2020 (Review)
How Do Older People Spend their Time? How Do Older People Spend their Time?
When The Elderly Lash Out: Caregiver Abuse When The Elderly Lash Out: Caregiver Abuse
Seniors Can Benefit From Assisted “Giving” Through Sharing Themselves with Children and Others Seniors Can Benefit From Assisted “Giving” Through Sharing Themselves with Children and Others

Recent Articles

13 At-Home Activities For Seniors Besides Watching TV 13 At-Home Activities For Seniors Besides Watching TV
5 Ways To Combat Depression In Seniors 5 Ways To Combat Depression In Seniors
7 Ways For Seniors To Boost Their Immune System 7 Ways For Seniors To Boost Their Immune System
The Best Grab Bars Review 2020 The Best Grab Bars Review 2020
The Best Coffee Makers For Eldelry Persons Review 2020 The Best Coffee Makers For Eldelry Persons Review 2020

The material of this web site is provided for informational purposes only. SeniorsMatters.com does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment;or legal, financial or any other professional services advice. Use of this site is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.