Symptoms of Dehydration in Seniors (and 5 Remedies)
Imagine a hot summer day during your golden years. Maybe you are having lunch with family and friends outside. Maybe you are at the golf course with your buddies. You are determined to not let the hot weather or your age get in the way of your good time. You feel great! However, all of a sudden, you start to feel nauseous and dizzy. You need to sit down – end lunch early or leave the golf course. You felt perfectly fine a moment ago. What is happening?
Dehydration in the elderly is a common – and often not talked about – health condition faced by older adults. According to a study conducted by UCLA, about 40% of older people are mildly or moderately dehydrated. As we age, our bodies are less apt at picking up on signs of dehydration. In addition, seniors can experience dehydration as a side effect of medications or health conditions. Left untreated, long-term dehydration in the elderly can lead to other health problems, such as a urinary tract infection. In extreme cases, chronic dehydration can even be life threatening.
Although there isn’t a remedy for aging quite yet, there are effective ways to quench dehydration for seniors. In this post we’ll discuss the various signs of dehydration older people and their caregivers should watch out for, the main causes of dehydration in senior adults, and five remedies for this common problem.
Common Symptoms of Dehydration in Older Adults
Signs of dehydration can be difficult to spot, especially in older adults. The older we get, the less good our bodies are at signaling to us that we need something, such as more glasses of water. Thus, it is important to keep an eye out for these signs of dehydration, especially if you are the primary caregiver for an elderly person.
Signs of Dehydration
- Dark colored urine
- Urinating less than usual
- Feeling dizzy
- Dry mouth
- Loss of fluids (excessive sweating, tears)
- Rapid heart rate
Signs of Dangerous Dehydration
While the symptoms above are cause for concern, they can be easily treated with proper fluid replenishment. The following symptoms, however, are signs of severe dehydration and if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms: seek medical attention immediately:
- Excessive diarrhea more than 24 hours
- Extreme inability to stay alert/awake
- Black or bloody stool
- Inability to keep down fluids
It is important that one keeps an eye out for these symptoms of dehydration in seniors. Although these symptoms can arguably be signs of another health condition, do not rule out the possibility of dehydration.
Why Dehydration Risks are Greater for Seniors
Similar to muscle and bone density, older people lose more fluids as they age. Whether that be from increased urination, drinking fewer glasses of water, hot weather, or side effects of a medication, it is something seniors and their caregivers should be aware of.
If we know that seniors are at higher risk for dehydration, why don’t they drink more water? Unfortunately, the answer is not that simple. As we age, the receptors in our mouth begin to lose sensitivity, and it becomes harder for our body to detect signs of dehydration. So, an older person may not even know that they are feeling thirsty. This explains why the onslaught of symptoms that lead to dehydration can seem so sudden to older people and their caregivers. Knowing this, here are some common causes of dehydration in seniors:
Common Causes of Dehydration in Seniors
- Aging: Loss of fluids is a common effect of aging. The older we get, the less water we retain, so older people have to replenish fluids more than a younger person if they want to stay hydrated.
- Health Conditions: Dehydration in seniors can be the result of other health conditions such as diabetes or kidney problems. A symptom of these diseases is an excessive loss of fluids from frequent urination. If these fluids are not replenished because their body doesn't indicate to them that they need more fluids, then seniors are at a higher risk of being dehydrated.
- Lack of Communication: Another common reason seniors are at higher risk for dehydration is that they may not have the mental capacity to recognize or communicate that they are feeling thirsty. This is often seen in patients with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. If a caregiver does not know how to identify dehydration properly, a senior can be severely dehydrated without their caregivers knowing.
- In assisted living communities, it is extremely important that caregivers pay extra attention to their patients with degenerative mental health conditions. These seniors in particular are very susceptible to dehydration and developing more serious health conditions since they cannot advocate for themselves.
- Medications: Lastly, certain medications can also lead to dehydration in seniors. Common medications such as diuretics and blood pressure medications can cause increased urination which can lead to an excessive loss of fluids. If these fluids are not regularly replenished, it can lead to dehydration.
5 Remedies for Dehydration in Older Adults
Humans are made up of 60% water. Therefore, staying hydrated is key to a balanced and healthy body. The most important remedy for dehydration in older seniors is to increase your fluid intake, especially your water intake.
While increasing fluid intake is important, there are plenty of other effective ways to quench you or your senior’s invisible thirst that go beyond drinking more glasses of water. If you or someone you are a caregiver for are experiencing symptoms of dehydration, here are five remedies for you or your loved one.
- Drink more fluids and electrolytes throughout the day
- Set a reminder or schedule in time to drink water throughout the day
- Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages and alcohol, as these beverages can dehydrate the body
- Eat fruits or vegetables with high water content, such as watermelon, cucumbers, or celery
- Supplementing with an Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS)
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