Senior Caregiving Tip: The Dangers of Dehydration
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Senior Caregiving Tip: The Dangers of Dehydration

Due to a decreased sense of thirst senior citizens are highly prone to dehydration

Dehydration is one of the more subtle dangers faced by senior citizens and those who care for them. Unlike a sudden fall, dehydration can develop gradually over the course of hours, or even days. Early signs of dehydration can go unnoticed further aggravating the problem. This is particularly unfortunate considering that mild dehydration can be treated simple glass of water; whereas, sever dehydration is an emergency calling for intravenous fluids administered by a healthcare professional.


One of the primary reasons senior citizens are prone to dehydration is a decreased sense of thirst. As we age our bodies lose this important signaling ability that would otherwise self-regulate an individual’s need for fluids. Additionally, many seniors experience decreased appetite further limiting the amount of liquids they consume.

Exacerbating the dehydration issue is the problem of urinary incontinence. Many older individuals drink less liquid in the hopes that less in equals less out. They risk making themselves dangerously ill from dehydration trying to avoid the discomfort and embarrassment associated an inability to control their bladder function.

Beyond these two common causes of dehydration in senior citizens, caregivers should be alert to occurrences of diarrhea, vomiting, fever and infection as all can contribute to a loss of bodily fluids. Additionally, exposure to excessive heat—like being caught without air conditioning on a hot summer’s day—calls for the consumption of additional fluids.


Since senior citizens often suffer from a medley of health conditions, a caregiver can mistakenly overlook the symptoms of dehydration. Disorientation may be attributed to dementia. Fatigue may be deemed the result of overexertion, a pharmaceutical side effect, or just “old age”. Patients who sit in a wheelchair all day may not exhibit outward signs of dizziness. But it is important to be aware that these are all signs of dehydration. Other symptoms include:

  • increased thirst
  • dry mouth
  • fever
  • weight loss
  • headache
  • dark, smelly urine
  • reduced urine output
  • heart palpitations
  • low blood pressure
  • lack of skin elasticity
  • fainting


When it comes to dehydration an ounce of prevention is worth a liter of cure. It is important for senior citizens to consume six to eight ounces of fluids per day. As caregiver, encourage your loved one to carry a bottle of water or other unsweetened beverage with them at all times; then, regularly remind them to take a sip. Also be sure to provide a full glass of drink with every meal.

Unfortunately, drinking sufficient fluids can become tiresome, especially for someone who does not get thirsty very often. So to supplement your loved one’s fluid intake provide liquid rich foods at meal time. Soup is a good choice. So are fruits and vegetables, which can be up to 80% water. Desserts such as popsicles and Jell-O gelatin also contain a high water content making them a good source of hydration.

As mentioned previously, severe dehydration is a potentially fatal emergency. As caregiver you can keep your loved one safe by taking a few precautions. Keep senior citizens indoors on hot summer days, use a humidifier during dry winter months, and remind them to drink, drink, drink!

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Comments (4)

Dehydration, is essential to life, our body's are mostly made up of it. Scenario: When I was in the U.S. Marines, I witnessed a fellow Marine Fall out(participating in a force march up a steep mountain) This Marine thought he was tough, he refused to drink from his canteen. He died shortly there after dew to heat stroke.

Very informative info, must keep our bodies hydrated in order to have any type of energy. Great read, wish I had more votes left, gotta figure that out how to get more.

Senior Care

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Such an important article.