Dehydration is a serious problem for many aging or ailing adults. As a caregiver, it is important to be aware of the signs of dehydration and to take steps to prevent it. By keeping your loved one well hydrated, you can help them stay healthy and avoid a number of potentially serious health problems. In this article, we’ll touch on the main signs of dehydration, explain the causes of dehydration in aging or ailing adults, and offer tips to keep your loved one well hydrated. Let’s dive in.
Signs of Dehydration in Older Adults
Dehydration can cause a number of longer-term problems for older adults, such as a loss of kidney function, shock, an increased risk for slips, trips, and falls, and in extreme cases, hospitalization or death. (Source) It is important to be aware of the signs of dehydration so that you can take action to prevent it.
These signs include:
Little or no urine output
Low blood pressure
Causes of Dehydration in Older Adults
As we’ve touched on, one of the most common, yet preventable health problems among older adults is dehydration. While dehydration can occur at any age, it is especially common among seniors for a variety of reasons, including:
Aging body. As we age, our bodies become less efficient at conserving water.
Medications. Many medications (such as diuretics) that are commonly taken by older adults can cause dehydration by reducing the body's ability to retain fluid, causing the body to expel more water than it takes in, or increasing the need to urinate.
Underlying medical conditions. Seniors may also be more susceptible to dehydration due to underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease.
Heat and weather. Hot weather and insufficient compensation through additional fluid intake can also contribute to dehydration.
Fewer thirst signals. Finally, older adults may simply be less aware of their need for fluids and be less likely to drink enough water throughout the day.
5 Tips for Preventing Dehydration in Older Adults
Taking steps to prevent dehydration is important for all seniors, as even mild dehydration can lead to fatigue, confusion, and other health problems. There are a number of things that you can do as a caregiver to help prevent dehydration in your loved one. Here are some tips to keep your loved one well hydrated:
Make sure that they are drinking enough fluids every day. The recommended daily intake of fluids is six to eight 8-ounce glasses per day (Source), but individual needs may vary depending on factors such as medications, medical conditions, and activity level. In addition, as we touched on, hot weather and increased activity levels may require even more fluids.
Keep an eye out for the aforementioned signs of dehydration and take action if you see any red flags. If your loved one seems confused or fatigued, offer them a drink of water or juice. If they are experiencing more severe symptoms such as dark urine or little or no urine output, seek medical attention immediately.
Feed them hydrating foods. Many raw fruits and vegetables have high water content, so if your loved one simply won’t drink the recommended water intake, substitute a glass of water with 2 cups of watermelon, for example. (Source)
Add flavor enhancers. For many adults, water is boring to drink. If that sounds like your loved one, invest in some water flavor improvers, like fresh lemon or mint, zero-calorie flavoring, or a carbon infusion system. (Yes, sparkling water counts too!)
Bring it with you. If you can prevent it, try not to leave the house without water. That ensures you always have it nearby when the moment of thirst strikes.
Dehydration is a serious problem for many aging or ailing adults. As a caregiver, it is important to be aware of the signs of dehydration and take steps to prevent it by ensuring your loved one drinks enough fluids every day. By keeping your loved one well hydrated, you can help them stay healthy and avoid a number of potentially serious health problems, but if you have any concerns, don’t delay the response – talk to your loved one’s doctor for recommended steps (as there are medical interventions that can rehydrate your loved one intravenously in an emergency).
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Additional Reading: How to Get Paid to Be a Caregiver
If you are a caregiver, we recommend you check out our article about getting paid to be a family caregiver. Becoming a caregiver is expensive–out-of-pocket costs average in the thousands each year for a family caregiver. The state of California offers several paths to receiving at least subsidized assistance, so click here to learn more about how to get paid to be a caregiver.