Symptoms of Dehydration in the Elderly
As we age, we become more susceptible to dehydration. Research shows that adults over the age of 60 are at greater risk for dehydration. However, dehydration in seniors and older adults can have serious consequences.
Studies found that dehydrated seniors are at a higher risk for developing infectious disease, stroke, kidney stones, chronic constipation and impaired cognitive function.
Fortunately, dehydration in older adults is a condition that can be managed if you know the warning signs and how to prevent it. Learn the symptoms of dehydration in the elderly, age-related risk factors for dehydration, and how to prevent dehydration in the elderly.
Why Are Seniors More Likely to Be Dehydrated?
Decrease in Water Retention
As the human body ages, the amount of water that it can store decreases. Older adults retain less water in their body. Thus, any fluid loss will have a larger impact on a senior body’s fluid balance.
When we are thirsty, we can often feel signs of dehydration like dry mouth. However, several studies have confirmed that when seniors are deprived of water, they are less likely to feel thirst. With a decreased feedback from their body, elders are less likely to drink enough water and replenish their fluid loss.
Additional Risk Groups
In addition to decreased water retention and thirst response, there are additional factors that identify seniors at a greater risk for dehydration.
Those over 85 years old
Senior patients suffering from 5 or more chronic diseases and health conditions
Seniors who take 5 or more medications
Elderly adults who are bedridden
Common Signs of Dehydration in the Elderly
As we age, our bodies become less efficient at retaining water and sensing feelings of thirst. This makes older adults more susceptible to dehydration, which can lead to a range of symptoms including:
Physical Symptoms of Dehydration
Not urinating frequently
Poor skin elasticity
These physical symptoms of dehydration can be observed by the older adults themselves as well as their caretakers.
Watching out for these indicators is a great way of monitoring an older adult’s hydration status and knowing when they need to drink more water.
Psychological Symptoms of Dehydration
Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
Unlike physical symptoms, psychological symptoms of dehydration can be harder to spot. However, understanding these signs and becoming more mindful of them could help seniors stay hydrated better. Being aware of these signs can be especially helpful, since seniors experience decreased thirst response.
Symptoms of Severe Dehydration
Bloody or black stool
Rapid heartbeat and breathing
Diarrhea or vomiting that lasts longer than 24 hours
Inability to keep fluids down
Severe dehydration is a dangerous and possibly fatal condition. Not only does severe dehydration progress quickly, it requires medical advice and treatment. If you notice any signs of severe dehydration from an older adult, it is imperative that they receive medical attention immediately.
How Elderly Adults Can Remedy and Reverse Dehydration
Although older adults are more vulnerable to dehydration, understanding the physical and psychological symptoms of dehydration in elderly populations can help them prevent dehydration. Once you can spot these common symptoms, learning how to best replenish lost fluids can help you stay hydrated.
Proper hydration starts with drinking enough fluids. In the U.S., adults receive roughly 20 percent of the fluids they need from their food. Thus, water, juices and other beverages contribute a huge portion of the body’s daily fluid needs.
For elderly adults, drinking 5 or more 8-ounce glasses of water is recommended each day. Drinking the recommended amount of water has tangible benefits for senior health. One study confirmed that seniors who drank the recommended amount of water faced lower rates of fatal heart disease.
Other tips for promoting hydration include:
Have water, juice or milk with every meal
Try foods with high water content, such as fruits and vegetables
Avoid diuretics such as coffee or alcohol
Avoid spending extended periods outside during hot weather
Drink small amounts of water throughout the day
However, simply drinking more water might not be enough. The key to staying hydrated is to replenish our body’s fluid and electrolyte loss.
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