10 Signs of Dehydtration in the Elderly and What to Do About It

November 2, 2015

Dehydration occurs when a person loses more water than they take in. When an individual is well hydrated it allows the body to regulate temperature through sweating, maintain blood pressure, and eliminate bodily waste. Dehydration, depending on the severity, sometimes creates only small signs while having a big effect on the body, especially in the elderly.

So what signs should one be looking for in their senior or elderly that would suggest dehydration? The following are the 10 most common:

Signs of Elderly Dehydration

Signs of dehydration in seniors may incliude:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty walking
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Sunken eyes
  • Inability to sweat or produce tears
  • Low urine output A simple check for dehydration is to gently pull up the skin on the back of the hand for a few seconds; if it does not return to normal almost immediately, the person is dehydrated.

Preventing Dehydration in Seniors

To help make sure your loved one doesn't suffer from dehydration, be vigilant with the following:

  • Make sure he/she consumes an adequate volume of fluids during the day

    • The normal level of hydration varies widely from person to person
    • Fluids do not have to be water
    • In general, larger people need to drink more water
  • Seniors should eat healthy foods with a high water content such as fruit, vegetables and soups
  • Urine colour should be light and output adequate (dark urine or infrequency of urination is a classic sign of dehydration)
  • Seniors need to be urged to drink even when they're not thirsty. You can support this habit by keeping water next to their bed or chair, especially if mobility is an issue
  • If your loved one is in a care facility, urge staff to assist residents with drinking
  • Offer a variety of beverages as everyone becomes bored with the same drink over and over again
  • Make sure that your loved one's weight is monitored regularly

    • If they've lost two pounds or more from the day before, and especially if they feel thirsty or have a headache, they're probably dehydrated
    • An active 65-year-old who exercises doesn't need to weigh herself everyday, byt a 75-year-old in a nursing home who has had issues with dehydration in the past, or has had cardiac issues, should be weighed every day.
  • Frequently assess his/her physical condition and mental state for changes
  • If he/she take laxatives or diuretics and dehydration is an issue, speak to his/her doctor about changing medication Watching for signs of illness in a loved one can be challenging, but as with most illnesses, prevention is the key. Making sure your loved one stays hydrated is much easier than treating him/her for dehydration later.
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