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Understanding and Preventing Dehydration in Seniors

Understanding and Preventing Dehydration in Seniors

What is dehydration?

Understanding and Preventing Dehydration in SeniorsDehydration is a condition caused by significant water loss from the body, causing blood sodium levels to rise. Dehydration in young people is often caused by diarrhea, vomiting, or profuse sweating. When an individual has excessive water loss, they typically require the replenishment of water and electrolytes (to help maintain body functions.)

Dehydration in the elderly occurs more often than in young people for several reasons: 1) As people age, their sense of thirst decreases. While younger people may have dry mouth and know they should drink water, the aging population may either not notice the sensation or assume that the sensation is due to medicines they are currently taking. 2) Seniors who have difficulty getting around may choose to drink less to avoid having to go to the bathroom. 3) Dehydration in the elderly can also be related to incontinence or to medications with diuretic side effects.

How can you tell if someone is becoming dehydrated?

Although it’s not always apparent when an individual is becoming dehydrated, there are some important signs to watch for, especially in the elderly.

  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Dry mouth or nose
  • Sunken eyes, no tears
  • Minimal need to urinate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Difficulty with movement
  • Confusion, headaches, or dizziness
  • Rapid heart rate

What should you do if someone appears dehydrated?

If you notice these symptoms, encourage the individual to drink water or other fluids supplemented with electrolytes. If he or she is not able to keep down fluids or has diarrhea or black or bloody stools, it’s time to call 911.

How do you prevent dehydration in the elderly?

    1. 1. Encourage them to drink small amounts throughout the day. Aim for at least 40 ounces of fluids per day. Water is best but juices, herbal teas, milk, mineral water, or almond milk are fine as well. Try fitting the 5 glasses (8 ounces each) in at these intervals:

      • Wake up
      • Breakfast
      • Lunch
      • Snack
      • Dinner
    1. 2. Limit fluids after dinner to avoid potential incontinence issues.
    1. 3. Avoid caffeinated beverages because of the diuretic effect.
    1. 4. Encourage the consumption of soups, fruits, and vegetables that have high water content.
    1. 5. Avoid alcoholic beverages

If you have questions about dehydration in the elderly or caring for your aging family member, contact us at 561-736-1422, toll-free: 855-730-9895, or visit

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