Dehydration is more common in older adults than in younger populations. Elderly dehydration often occurs quickly and can increase a senior’s risk of infection or disorientation. The consequences can be severe if symptoms aren’t recognized and treated promptly. Caregivers should regularly monitor for signs of dehydration while encouraging their aging loved ones to drink as much water as possible. Preventing dehydration in older adults is one of the most beneficial measures a caregiver can take to preserve and promote their senior loved one’s overall well-being.
There are a variety of reasons why dehydration occurs more frequently in elderly populations. Most of these relate to the aging process and its inevitable effects on the body’s function.
Here are some expected age-related changes that contribute to an increased risk of dehydration:
If one or more of the risk factors listed above is affecting your loved one, it’s essential for you to monitor their fluid intake and encourage hydration as much as possible.
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Recognizing risk factors contributing to elderly dehydration is crucial, but it’s equally important to know how dehydration will manifest in seniors. Symptoms of dehydration in older adults may often be difficult to recognize.
Common signs of elderly dehydration include:
Serious signs of severe dehydration include: 
Though we may easily recognize problems such as dizziness, nausea, and cramping as symptoms of dehydration, there are other subtle ways that dehydration in elderly adults may show. Lethargy and confusion could indicate fluid and electrolyte imbalances.
Another way caregivers can evaluate when assessing for dehydration in older adults is by checking for the loss of skin turgor. Turgor relates to the amount of pressure or fluid present in cells, so if skin turgor is low, it’s likely that cells are dehydrated.
The best way to assess skin turgor is by gently pinching and pulling upward on the skin that covers the back of the hand. After a few seconds, let go of the skin and observe how quickly it returns to its original place. If the skin “tents” or takes more than a few seconds to return to normal, this may indicate dehydration.
There are several ways that caregivers can help prevent dehydration in seniors. The simplest intervention is making sure that their fluid intake is sufficient.
Here are some other practical tips to help you ensure that your loved one stays hydrated and healthy:
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Dehydration in elderly adults can have serious consequences and contribute to increased urinary issues such as kidney stones and UTIs. In severe cases, it can precipitate a serious injury such as a fall or shock. Keeping seniors hydrated is one of the most practical ways to prevent unnecessary falls or illnesses.
If you’re concerned about your loved one’s nutrition or ability to stay hydrated, or if your aging parent requires help with daily tasks, consider talking to one of our Senior Living Advisors. They can recommend home care or senior living options that may improve your loved one’s quality of life.
Cleveland Clinic. (2021, February 16). Dehydration.
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. (2015, April). Clinical symptoms, signs and tests for identification of impending and current water-loss dehydration in older people.
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