What Causes Dehydration in Elderly Adults?

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Posted Jan 3rd, 2019 in Health & Wellbeing, Nutrition

What Causes Dehydration in Elderly Adults?

When an elderly man or woman is dehydrated, it can cause a lot of health problems that range from infrequent urination and thirst to dizziness and seizures. Unfortunately, dehydration is quite common in seniors as it is often hard for their bodies to hold onto fluids for long. Other age-related issues also make it a struggle for their elderly body to stay hydrated. Family caregivers must provide support for their elderly relative when it comes to monitoring fluid intake and be aware of the signs of dehydration, so they can act.

It's a mistake to only associate dehydration with the hot weather in the summer months. For seniors, that is a dangerous time of year, but aging adults can actually suffer from dehydration year-round. Often, the family caregiver and elderly relative have no idea how fast dehydration can take place, and they ignore the symptoms or believe that the signs are due to other age-related issues. That’s when dehydration can be the most dangerous and damaging—when neither family caregivers or elderly adults know it is happening.

Seniors are especially vulnerable to dehydration because their bodies don’t retain fluids as well as they used to. The kidneys expel fluids faster than usual, and many common medicines act as diuretics, making it hard for the body to hold onto valuable fluids. Frequent illnesses can also dehydrate the body, and many seniors avoid drinking too much to help with incontinence. Many aging adults don’t have a large appetite and have learned to ignore thirst signals, leaving their intake of fluids very small. These challenges and more are important for elderly care providers and family caregivers to overcome to ensure good hydration.

The good news is that family caregivers and elderly care providers can do a lot to prevent dehydration in elderly adults. They can work together to create good habits for ensuring the senior takes in enough liquids and remains properly hydrated. One thing they can do is to offer the aging adult drinks of water throughout the day and especially at mealtime. Sometimes, people don’t think to drink until they are asked or reminded. Seniors should carry a water bottle with them to have easy access to thirst-quenching liquids.

Another method to help prevent dehydration is to eat foods with a lot of liquid content. These can include soups, steps, fruits and vegetables. Even a little of these can help bring an elderly adult’s body fluid levels to above average. Finally, seniors should always see a doctor if family caregivers and elderly care providers show symptoms of dehydration, which includes dry mouth, no sweat or tears, dark urine, dizziness, and in extreme cases, unconsciousness.

Family caregivers and elderly care providers should never assume that just because an elderly person isn’t thirsty that they are properly hydrated. Dehydration can usher in all kinds of harmful health effects on aging adults, so it’s vital that seniors have access to plenty of liquids day in and day out.

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