Older adults are at higher risk of dehydration than younger people. But do you know how to spot signs of dehydration in your aging loved one? Symptoms of dehydration in elderly adults may sometimes be subtle, but not drinking enough water and fluids can have a big effect on the body, especially in the elderly.
Severe dehydration can lead to confusion, weakness, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, bedsores in bedridden patients, and other serious conditions. Drinking enough fluids helps the body digest food, eliminate waste, regulate temperature through sweating, and maintain blood pressure.
Assisted living communities sometimes offer hydration programs that include nutrition plans, monitoring weight, keeping an eye on residents at high risk for dehydration, and more. If your loved one lives in an assisted living community, ask about available programs. But if your elderly parent lives at home or with you, read on to understand how to identify signs of dehydration and how to prevent it.
Dehydration occurs when a person loses more water than they take in. Dehydration in elderly adults is especially common for a number of reasons:
Symptoms of dehydration in older adults may sometimes be difficult to recognize. If you think your aging parent may be dehydrated, you can check for a decrease in skin turgor or elasticity by pulling up the skin on the back of the hand for a few seconds. If the skin does not return to normal almost immediately, it could be a sign of dehydration.
Other signs and symptoms of dehydration in elderly adults may include:
More serious signs of severe dehydration include:
Preventing dehydration in elderly adults can be as simple as ensuring they drink enough fluids. Follow these practical tips to help your loved one stay hydrated throughout the day.
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. “Drink up: dehydration is an often overlooked health risk for seniors.” https://health.clevelandclinic.org/drink-up-dehydration-is-an-often-overlooked-health-risk-for-seniors/.
National Institute on Aging. “Getting Enough Fluids.” https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/getting-enough-fluids.
Schols J.M., et al. “Preventing and treating dehydration in the elderly during periods of illness and warm weather.” The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 2009: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19214345/.
Angelike Gaunt is a content strategist at A Place for Mom. She’s developed health content for consumers and medical professionals at major health care organizations, including Mayo Clinic, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the University of Kansas Health System. She’s passionate about developing accessible content to simplify complex health topics.