- Headache or dizziness
- Low blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- An inability to produce tears or sweat
- Cramping in the limbs
- Dark, deep yellow urine
- Rapid heart rate
- Difficulty passing urine
- Muscle weakness
What causes dehydration in seniors?
There are a few big things that contribute to dehydration in seniors. The first is the fact that, as we age, our sensation of thirst slowly diminishes. This means that elders don’t often experience thirst the same way they did when they were younger, which is necessary to provoke them to drink water when nearing a dehydrated state.
The second big contributing factor is that the body loses water with age. Most of thebody’s water content is stored in the muscles, which naturally wane over time. What doesn’t wane, though, is the necessity to stay hydrated. That means seniors need to drink more water to keep themselves hydrated than they did when they were younger with more muscle mass to store H20 in.
Another factor has to do with kidney health. The kidneys are responsible for removing toxins from the blood, and as the kidneys’ efficacy declines in old age, so does their ability to create concentrated urine to eliminate the body’s waste products. The result is more diluted urine in greater volume. Since the kidneys use more water to create urine than they did in the prime of their youth, that results in your elderly loved one losing more water.
- Keep drinks within reach. Water and other beverages shouldn’t just be provided at meal times—they should be provided throughout the entire day to encourage small, regular sips. Keep drinks handy, especially for seniors with mobility issues. If your loved one is in an assisted living facility, ensure their caretakers are doing the same.
- Consider the environment. Make sure to encourage rehydration after your loved one spends time outdoors. Hot weather can cause water loss through sweating, and the dry air in winter can increase the risk of dehydration.
- Talk about staying hydrated. Seniors might not realize they’re losing their sensation of thirst, so be sure to educate them on the importance of staying hydrated. If your elderly loved one doesn’t like the taste of water, make sure to provide plenty of other tasty, hydrating drinks, like Gatorade or fruit juice.
- Weigh every day. If your loved one has lost a pound or two within one day, it could be a sign of dehydration. If they live in an assisted living facility, make sure your senior’s caretakers are weighing them every day.
- Stock up on H2O-rich foods. If your elderly loved one is having a hard time staying hydrated, foods high in water content are your new best friends. For breakfast, offer yogurt with fruits like watermelon, strawberries, and cantaloupe. At lunch, suggest a salad paired with sliced peaches or oranges. At dinner, serve clear broth-based soups. And, at every meal, swap whole milk for skim milk or offer coconut water to pair with food.
- Try to limit diuretic drinks. Coffee and alcohol can make dehydration worse, so try to encourage your elderly loved one to stick to one caffeinated or alcoholic beverage per day.
If left untreated
If treated quickly and effectively by a qualified medical professional, a senior can expect to make a full recovery from dehydration. If left untreated, however, dehydration can lead to multiple health complications, such as urinary tract issues, kidney stones, and even kidney failure. Seniors also face heat injury as a result of dehydration. If seniors spend too much time outdoors sweating, they could be at risk of heat exhaustion or even heatstroke, which can prove fatal. Seniors can also experience seizures as a dehydration complication. Electrolytes play a big role in sending electrical signals from cell to cell in our bodies, so when dehydration causes an electrolyte imbalance, seizures can result. Finally, seniors can enter hypovolemic shock due to dehydration, also known as low blood volume shock. This occurs when seniors experience a drop in blood pressure and body oxygen due to dehydration—and it can be life-threatening.
Don’t let your senior experience any of these dehydration complications. If you suspect that your elderly loved one may be suffering from dehydration, get in touch with us at DispatchHealth. We’ll come to your senior’s place of residence to administer treatment for dehydration without requiring them to travel to the emergency room or urgent care center. We accept most major medical insurance carriers, including Medicare and Medicaid, and offer an affordable flat rate for uninsured patients. Our services cost about the same as an urgent care visit, and a fraction of what a visit to the emergency room would cost. We’ll also send a treatment report to your elderly loved one’s primary care physician or assisted living facility to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Request care via our app, online, or over the phone today to receive treatment from our qualified medical professionals within a few hours.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Phil Mitchell MD, MS on October 3rd, 2019