Dehydration in the elderly – What you need to know 

7 Apr 2022 | Advice

Dehydration can occur in anyone but the elderly are much more susceptible. The sensation of thirst can decrease, along with the natural change in water and sodium balance that occurs with age. 

Here we will discuss the common reasons for dehydration in the elderly, how to spot it and what to do about it. 

Why dehydration occurs in the elderly 

Here are some of the more common reasons. 

  • A reduced feeling of thirst is common in older age, especially in those with dementia or cognitive decline. 
  • The amount of fluid in the body decreases naturally with age so there are fewer water reserves to fall back on. 
  • A decline in kidney function with age results in more water being lost through urination. 
  • Various underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or kidney problems, can lead to excess water loss through urination. 
  • Heat exposure, both hot and humid conditions, increases fluid loss. 
  • Illness such as fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. 
  • Mobility problems may prevent an elderly person from physically being able to get a drink when they need to. 
  • Certain medications can cause increased urination which leads to increased fluid loss. 
  • If using the bathroom has become difficult it’s not uncommon to see people avoid drinking too much to reduce the number of bathroom trips. 

Recognising dehydration in the elderly 

Dehydration can be very serious if left untreated for a long time. Luckily, in most cases, it is relatively easy to reverse by increasing fluids. In more serious cases, this is done under medical supervision. Recognising the symptoms of dehydration is essential for early detection. 

  • Dry mouth 
  • Decreased urination 
  • Dark urine 
  • Tiredness and fatigue 
  • Blurred vision – as tear ducts dry up 
  • Headaches 
  • Muscle cramping 
  • Dizziness 
  • Sunken eyes 
  • Confusion 
  • Fainting 
  • Rapid heart rate 

How to prevent dehydration in the elderly 

In most cases, simply increasing fluids by drinking water or juice will be enough to reverse symptoms. 

  • Sip fluids of any kind regularly throughout the day. They may need reminders to help with this. 
  • Include foods with high water content into the diet – such as watermelon, cucumber and soups. 
  • If going outdoors, be prepared and take drinks on the trip. 
  • If there’s an underlying health condition or medication causing dehydration, it’s a good idea to speak to a doctor for advice. 
  • Leave drinks out so they are easily accessible. 
  • Ensure there is easy access to a toilet. 

In some cases, electrolyte replacement drinks may be beneficial to replace essential minerals in the body. In severe cases, a doctor may prescribe fluids intravenously in the hospital. 

You can visit the NHS website for advice. 

Does your elderly loved one need more help at home? 

Eximius can help. 

We provide live-in care to give your loved one the care they need while still retaining as much independence as possible and remaining in their own home. 

Our highly trained, caring, and compassionate companions ensure our clients stay hydrated throughout the day. Whether it’s coffee and a chat at breakfast, or an afternoon cup of tea in the garden, it’s always a social occasion. Of course, they can assist clients to the bathroom when needed, ensuring dignity at all times. 

If you’d like to learn more about live-in care and how Eximius can help you or your loved one please contact us

You may also be interested in 11 tips to encourage eating in elderly people with no appetite.