Dehydration in Seniors

For many seniors, dehydration quickly becomes a significant health issue, so caregivers need to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of dehydration to help prevent the health consequences.  We all know that dehydration occurs because of a lack of water intake, but many of us do not realize that some health conditions, such as diabetes, or certain prescriptions can make dehydration issues more problematic.

As we age, we become less aware of thirst, and our body’s ability to regulate fluid balance becomes more challenging.  After age 60, the bodies of men and women contain proportionately less water because of decreasing muscle mass and increasing fat cells.  In addition, kidney function tends to lessen.

Some of the symptoms of mild dehydration include headaches, cramps or sleepiness; however, low blood pressure, rapid breathing or a bloated stomach can indicate more severe stages of dehydration.  The significant consequences of dehydration can lead to loss of consciousness or low blood pressure which are ultimately life threatening.

By drinking five glasses of water per day, you can lower your risk for certain cancers and fatal coronary heart disease.  Keep water nearby throughout the day to sip on to prevent dehydration from beginning.  Proper hydration can lead to more energy and stamina, so that you can have a better day.  Don’t let dehydration sneak up on you or your elderly loved one.

Many times you may recognize that your loved one needs more fluids, yet he or she refuses to drink any more water or may be experiencing symptoms of depression that prevent adequate fluid intake.  Always check with a healthcare provider, but know that fluid intake can also occur through eating certain fruits and vegetables.  In addition, keep a closed container with a straw on the table and offer each time he or she takes medications.  The container can be kept full and, in this way, fluid intake can be monitored.

If you have concerns about a loved one who may be experiencing signs of dehydration, please contact your healthcare provider.  For behavioral health concerns, please contact Haven Behavioral Hospital at 623-236-2000 or visit  Haven Behavioral Hospital provides inpatient psychiatric stabilization and treatment to older adults experiencing acute symptoms of dementia, depression, anxiety, mood swings or psychosis.