What is Dehydration?

Dehydration in the Elderly

Effects of Dehydration in the Elderly

Older people are more likely to experience dehydration. The greatest risk factor for dehydration in the elderly is poor intake of fluids.

Older people are at an increased risk of dehydration, due to:

  • Decreased thirst reflex with age.
  • Changes in kidney function with age.
  • Less fluid in the body with age.
  • Inability to obtain water due to physical immobility or medical conditions (such as dementia).

Seniors are at a particularly high risk of mild to moderate dehydration during prolonged heatwaves which often affect parts of the US each year in summer!

To see the causes of dehydration, please click here

Signs of Dehydration in the Elderly

Older people will also experience the usual signs and symptoms of dehydration.

Common symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue / Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Dark yellow urine, or decreased urine output
  • Sticky or dry mouth
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Irritability

There are a few more useful indicators of dehydration in seniors. These include:

  • Reduced sweating under the arms

TIP – place some tissue paper under the arms for a few minutes. If the paper does not moisten, the person may be dehydrated.

  • Reduced skin elasticity.
  • Dry mouth and tongue.
  • Darker urine than usual.

Symptoms of Dehydration in the Elderly

It is important that older people are well aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration. If any signs or symptoms of dehydration are present, it is best to seek medical assistance and start therapy as soon as possible, to prevent worsening of this condition.

Ways to prevent dehydration in the elderly:

  • Be well aware of signs and symptoms of dehydration and monitor for these.
  • Consume fluids on a regular basis (e.g. every 1.5 hours by day).
  • Consume fluids at routine events, such as before or after showering.
  • Try to consume wet foods such as jelly and custard, as these add to the daily fluid volume.

Management of Dehydration in Seniors

When managing dehydration in seniors, the use of an oral fluid intake chart may be useful to measure fluid intake and losses. This chart may be most useful in aged care hospices.
Download the Hydralyte oral fluid chart here.

In order to prevent and relieve dehydration, seniors may consume an oral rehydration solution (Hydralyte) when they are at risk of dehydration.

Hydralyte is scientifically formulated to contain the correct balance of glucose and electrolytes for rapid rehydration. The formulation is based on the World Health Organization criteria for effective rehydration. Water or sugary drinks are not as effective as Hydralyte, as they do not restore lost electrolytes (which retain the fluid).

Featured Hydralyte Products: