Wellness & Nutrition

Dehydration Symptoms and Problems caused in the Elderly

Athulya 40

Often, we tend to relate only chronic ailments and lifestyle diseases to elderly health. However, several body conditions can lead to serious consequences. One such common issue is that of dehydration. It occurs when water intake is poor or there are insufficient levels of fluids and electrolytes in the body. Dehydration is usually associated with hot summer days and vigorous physical activities. But other factors like high fever, acute infection and loose stools can also cause dehydration. Some of the usual consequences of dehydration include fatigue, reduced saliva production and dry skin in seniors.

It is important to replenish the lost body fluids immediately when there are signs of dehydration. Neglecting the symptoms can have dangerous results like permanent kidney failure and seizures. Though people of all ages are prone to this problem, older people are more vulnerable than other age groups. Hence, senior care facilities like assisted living constantly ensure that the elders are well-hydrated. Likewise, skin and nail care for seniors need special attention to avoid related side effects. Athulya Assisted Living, a highly promising choice for senior living communities, is known for its specialized geriatric homes and amenities. The skilled nursing care offered by this facility uses customized approaches to heal elderly patients empathetically in its homely atmosphere.


What makes dehydration more common in seniors?

  • Diminishing signals of thirst due to aging hindering seniors from realizing that they need to drink water
  • Poor water retention in the body as fluid reserves shrink
  • Ineffective functioning of the kidneys resulting in fluid imbalances
  • Certain medications like diuretics or a combination of certain drugs
  • Decreased cognitive capabilities due to mental disorders like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease which make elders forget to drink water

Dehydration Symptoms

  • Unquenched thirst
  • Inability to sweat
  • Dryness in the mouth
  • Nil or very less tears
  • Unexplained exhaustion
  • Dark-coloured urine
  • Mental confusion
  • Feeling of dizziness and light-headedness

Signs of extreme dehydration include

  • Severe episodes of vomiting and loose stools
  • Feeling highly irritable and disoriented
  • Unusual stool colouration (red or black)
  • Abnormal drowsiness
  • Inability to retain body fluids

Risk Factors for Dehydration

  • Persistent diarrhoea and vomiting that leads to fast depletion of the body’s vital fluids and electrolytes
  • High bouts of fever
  • Excessive sweating that happens after rigorous physical activity or workout
  • Abnormally increased frequency of urination especially because of uncontrolled diabetes

Problems of Severe Dehydration

  • Mental confusion
  • Crankiness and anxiety (more so in dementia patients)
  • Shrinking of blood vessels in the brain affects memory and coordination
  • Stress on the heart causes high blood pressure
  • Poor excretion of urine from the kidneys
  • Extreme cramping due to electrolyte imbalance

Prevention of Dehydration

  • Consume plenty of water and healthy fluids to remain well-hydrated.
  • Remove excess clothing and rest in a cool area to reduce body temperature.
  • Limit the intake of soda and coffee as they tend to increase the impact of dehydration.
  • Use timers and phone alarms to set reminders for drinking water periodically in case you are forgetful.
  • Drink more water if you are doing a lot of physical activities, exercises or if the weather is hot outside.
  • Incorporate fruits and vegetables that are laden with water in your daily diet particularly if you find it difficult to drink lots of water. You may also include healthy fluids like soup, broth, jelly and yogurt to keep you well-hydrated.
  • Enhance the flavour of drinking water by adding some lemon, orange or little honey so that tastes better.
  • Discuss with your physician about the substitution of medications and supplements that are likely to cause dehydration.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What are the benefits of water consumption in controlling dehydration?
  • Maintains optimal hydration levels in the body to maximize physical performance and reduces oxidative stress
  • Boosts energy levels and prevents impairment of brain functioning due to poor hydration status
  • Prevents various health problems like acute headaches, migraines, constipation and the formation of kidney stones
  • What are the levels of dehydration?
  • Low wherein the lost fluids can be replaced by oral hydration
  • Moderate in which intravenous fluid administration is required
  • Severe that calls for emergency medical intervention
  • How are sports drinks helpful in avoiding dehydration?

Sports drinks contain potassium and sodium and help in the replenishment of essential electrolytes lost due to sweating after physical activity.

  • What are the laboratory tests to diagnose dehydration?
  • Low sodium concentration in the urine
  • Elevated levels of creatinine and blood urea nitrogen in the blood
  • High concentration of particles in blood plasma
  • What beverages dehydrate the body?

Beverages that contain alcohol and caffeine like coffee and aerated drinks cause dehydration quickly.

Thus, simple precautionary steps like adequate water consumption and a healthy mindful diet can avoid dehydration problems in the elders.


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