Dehydration in the Elderly: What You Need to Know
As a caregiver to an older parent, loved one or aging adult, you have one of the most important jobs there is. You’re a companion, a support system and a first line of defense against accidents and illness. Understanding and adapting to an older person’s evolving needs are among the most important responsibilities you have as a caregiver—including when it comes to ensuring adequate hydration.
Are you aware that there is an increased risk of dehydration among elderly people? Our seniors face some unique age-related challenges when it comes to getting enough water. Decreased thirst coupled with an increased risk of dehydration can make hydration care hard to navigate. Wondering if certain symptoms are linked to dehydration? Here are a few things to look for:
Understanding the Causes and Risks of Dehydration
In a healthy adult, dehydration is typically rare—with illness or fever or excessive sweating without adequate fluid replenishment the most common contributors. The picture starts to get a little more complicated as we age, as seniors are more at risk for dehydration.
Some of these natural changes from the aging process include:
- Decrease in the amount of water in the body (percentage of body weight contributed by water falls from about 60% to 50%)
- Decline in kidney function
- Diminishing thirst perception
In addition, certain prescribed medications and chronic illnesses, decreased mobility and dementia can all contribute to challenges with adequate fluid intake.
If you are caring for an elderly family member, make sure their medical team has a complete picture of their health, including lifestyle, all medications and any medical conditions. A physician can help you understand how much fluid they need and how to help meet those daily goals.
Spotting the Symptoms of Dehydration in Elderly Adults
Signs of dehydration in elderly people may sometimes go unnoticed. Some symptoms like confusion and constipation are common in many other age-related conditions and may not be immediately recognized as dehydration-related. Other signs like skin recoil and increased thirst are not always as visible in this demographic. If you have questions or concerns, communicate these with a physician or other members of the care team.
Share or print this handy chart so that all caregivers and family members are aware of what to look for.
Caring for seniors is an important and highly rewarding job. While age-related challenges do exist when it comes to maintaining adequate hydration, even small, simple tweaks to the daily routine can go a long way in promoting good hydration habits.
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