Preventing Dehydration in the Elderly

Preventing Dehydration in the Elderly

 March 23, 2018

A glass of water and a pitcher on a table.

Dehydration is when someone loses more body fluid than they ingest. The excessive loss of water from the body disrupts the way it functions. Water is vital to health and wellness, but there are several factors that combine to make dehydration particularly common in the elderly and particularly dangerous, too.


One of the first things that contribute to elderly dehydration is as a side effect of some common medicines for things like anti-depressants and high blood pressure.

Elderly adults often take several different types of drugs, which could trigger dehydration. Another common factor is that the kidneys in elderly adults are less able to hold onto fluids, causing them to leave the body faster. Seniors are also not as tuned in to feeling thirst as they were when they were younger, so they are not prompted to drink as much. Finally, many seniors have problems with drinking and swallowing due to physical side effects of things like poorly fitting dentures or a stroke.

It may be difficult for family members and elder care aides to spot the warning signs of dehydration in elderly adults. They can be hard to spot because many symptoms mimic other conditions and illnesses.


Here are a few things for family caregivers to watch out for:

Bathroom issues:
A dehydrated senior will not be able to use the bathroom very often, and when they do, the urine may be dark in color and have a strong smell.

Lack of moisture: Most people produce some sweat and some tears, even seniors. However, these are impossible when the body is dehydrated.

Loose skin: One sign of dehydration is the loss of suppleness to the skin. Family members can pull up on the skin on the back of the elderly person’s hand. If it doesn’t go back into place after a few seconds, it may mean dehydration.

Dizziness and disorientation: When someone is dehydrated, they can become dizzy and have trouble walking. They may also be confused and disoriented about their surroundings.

Lowered blood pressure: If family members are monitoring their loved one’s blood pressure, they might notice a drop when the elderly adult is dehydrated.
Family members can do a lot to prevent dehydration in elderly adults. For the short term, everyone can encourage the senior to drink water and sports drinks. Family members, elder care aides, and others can make sure the senior is drinking something with every meal.

In mild cases, dehydration can be treated easily by drinking water or a replenishing sports drink. Seniors should avoid drinking soda over water, tea or coffee. Many seniors find success in staying well-hydrated by keeping a water bottle within reach throughout the day. They can then partake throughout the day and avoid the dangerous effects of dehydration.


If you or an aging loved-one are considering Senior Care in Shadyside, PA, please contact the caring staff at In-Home Quality Care today. Serving the Greater Pittsburgh Area since 1990! Call 412-421-5202