What You Should Know
Aging changes the way the body functions and increases the risk of your family member or client developing dehydration.
- The function of the kidneys, which helps to regulate fluid declines.
- The ability to recognize thirst decreases.
- The amount of total body water decreases. So even a small change in fluid intake can cause dehydration.
The following factors can lead to dehydration:
- kidney problems
- medications such as diuretics (water pills) increase the amount of fluid excreted from the body
- conditions such as Parkinson's disease, strokes or dementia may cause swallowing difficulties that can lead to a decrease in fluid intake
- inability to feed oneself
- fear of requiring help with toileting or being incontinent
Signs of Dehydration
Signs of dehydration include:
- dry mouth and nose
- loose and/or dry skin
- skin "tenting" in the forehead
- increased tiredness and/or weakness
- sudden (acute) confusion
- concentrated urine
- dizziness and orthostatic hypotension (standing causes sudden drop in blood pressure, feeling dizzy, and even fainting)
- increased heart rate
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
Some of these symptoms, such as dry mouth, loose and/or dry skin, and constipation, may occur as a result of age-related changes rather than dehydration.
How to Avoid Dehydration
To help avoid dehydration, your family members and clients should be encouraged to:
- Spread out fluid intake throughout the day, rather than drinking large amounts at one time.
- Drink 1.5 - 2 L (6 - 8 glasses) of fluids per day unless your loved one or client has a medical condition that would require a fluid restriction such as congestive heart failure.
- Keep a variety of beverages available that are acceptable with your dietary restrictions (i.e. sugar free soda for a diabetic).
- Consume moist foods such as fresh fruits, soups and yogurt.
- Take medications one at a time with sips of fluid in-between.
- Find out what they like to drink from whether it be from a crystal goblet or a plastic water bottle. Have fluids close at hand at all times.
- Identify medications that may cause fluid loss, e.g., diuretics (water pills).
When Medical Help is Needed
Seek medical attention:
- if symptoms of dehydration persist, or
- if you observe your family member or client having swallowing difficulties such as choking, throat clearing or coughing after eating or drinking.
Dietitians of Canada
- Main Website: The Dietitians of Canada website provides information on healthy eating and dietary options.
Health Canada – Canada's Food Guide
- Main Website: The purpose of Canada's Food Guide is to guide food selection and promote the nutritional health of Canadians.
- Beverages: Information about choosing and enjoying beverages.
Mayo Clinic – Dehydration
- A comprehensive article from the Mayo Clinic about dehydration, including signs and symptoms, causes, complications, treatment and prevention.
Illinois Council on Long Term Care
- The Importance of Water includes information about dehydration and the elderly and taking a proactive approach to preventing dehydration.