Senior Health

Here you will find informative articles on the topic of senior nutrition. Topics covered range from senior nutrition and weight loss to the relationship between BMI and quality of life for the elderly.

Symptoms & Recovery From Dehydration in the Elderly

Dismissal of fluids can actually be fatal and of concern, especially in the senior population. Combat dehydration with these recognizable signs and symptoms and simple tips on how to drink more water.


When it comes to good health, it is often thought to eat nutritious foods and exercise regularly. However, we must not forget about optimal fluid intake.

Dehydration Explained

The body loses water naturally each day through breathing, sweating, urination, and defecation. When the body loses too much water without proper fluid replacement, dehydration may arise. The absence of water compromises critical body functions such as blood flow to the heart and other vital organs.

In addition to limited fluid consumption, dehydration can be caused by extreme vomiting and diarrhea, fever and excessive sweating. In seniors, the combination of reduced thirst mechanisms and a forgetful memory contributes to an increased risk of dehydration. Some may intentionally reduce fluids associated to their fear of incontinence.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

Signs and symptoms of dehydration can be mild to severe. Mild to moderate cases can be reversed with adequate hydration while severe dehydration is a medical emergency and requires the care from a healthcare professional.

Mild to Moderate Dehydration
•Thirst with a dry, sticky mouth
•Less frequent trips to the restroom with decreased urine production and output
•Dry skin
•Headaches and sleepiness
•Dizziness, lightheadedness, and weakness
•Muscle cramps

Severe Dehydration
•Extreme thirst
•Very dry mouth as well as skin and mucous membranes
•Shriveled skin
•Little to no urination
•Darker colored urine than normal with any urine output
•Rapid heartbeat and breathing
•Low blood pressure
* If you or a loved one experience any of these signs and symptoms, seek medical attention.

How to Drink More Water and Rehydrate

Despite potential dehydration signs and symptoms, how do you know if you are drinking enough water? As a general rule, adults should consume eight cups (eight ounces per cup for a total of 64 ounces). Although drinking the recommended eight cups may seem simple, it is a tougher quest in the senior population.

Seniors are encouraged to drink at least five glasses compared to the standard eight. Seniors can benefit from a constantly filled water bottle and/or bottles strategically placed in convenient locations. If incontinence is feared, individuals should consume small amounts of water throughout the day and avoid drinking any fluids before bed.

Ice and fresh fruit can even count towards fluid intake. If chewing and swallowing issues arise, senior adults should take advantage of soft snacks such as flavored gelatin and applesauce. Ice cream is an excellent way to obtain fluid and calcium, a mineral critical in the elderly population for bone density maintenance.

Additionally, the risk of dehydration can be reduced by treating the route of the problem. If vomiting resulted in dehydration, eat foods that are better tolerated and may ease the stomach. Electrolytes may also be lost with excessive vomiting and fluid loss in general. A sports drink may be beneficial related to its electrolyte content.

Dehydration is cause for concern & can actually be fatal, especially for seniors. See the signs and symptoms along with tips to increase water intake.

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on May 25, 2016. Updated on October 22, 2019.


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