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Essential Hydration Guide for Seniors: Guidance, Tips, and Signs of Dehydration

Hydration is crucial for everyone to maintain a stable internal system. According to the Cleveland Clinic, having enough water can help with digestion, temperature regulation, cognition, and joint lubrication. Dehydration can impact the cardiovascular system and brain function as blood vessels constrict when fluid levels are low. When these systems are strained, symptoms can range from confusion, rapid heartbeat, fatigue and more, sometimes leading to urinary tract infections, heart complications, and accidental falls. Seniors are at higher risk of dehydration due to many factors. Generally, older adults have less fluid in their bodies and a reduced sensation of thirst, so dehydration can occur without knowing. Learn more about the warning signs of dehydration, tips for preventing it, and other hydration tips for seniors below.

Common signs and symptoms of dehydration in seniors 

If not remedied, dehydration can lead to serious complications. However, if you’re on the lookout for these symptoms, you can rehydrate at their first signs, and avoid them becoming more severe. The Cleveland Clinic lists these common symptoms:

  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased urination and/or dark urine
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation 
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headache 
  • Confusion or anxiety — especially pronounced in people with Alzheimer’s 

If not remedied at home, dehydration can require medical treatment. So it’s important to hydrate throughout the day. 

How much water do seniors need to drink to stay hydrated?

The truth is that eight glasses of water a day may not be enough for daily hydration. Depending on the climate, health conditions, medications, activity level, nutrition, and other factors, seniors may need to increase their fluid intake. The American Heart Association says if people wait until they feel thirsty to hydrate, they’re probably already dehydrated. Instead, the color of urine is a good indicator of hydration. If urine is pale or clear, hydration levels are good. If the color is dark, more fluids are needed. If your physician has limited your fluids or salt, discuss with them what you should drink to replenish fluids and electrolytes, and how much. 

Special hydration considerations for seniors:

Staying hydrated can be complicated for people 65 and older. Medications, health conditions and other factors can combine to increase the risk of dehydration, and make hydrating more difficult. See the special considerations below, and consult with your physician on the best plan for you.

Medication side effects can make hydration more difficult

Heart medications, such as for managing blood pressure, increase urination and can easily lead to dehydration if not managed. Similarly, laxatives can also cause fluid loss; and other medications can inhibit thirst. The Centers for Disease Control lists these common side effects and guidance for clinicians, but communicate with your doctor on your specific medications. 

Chronic conditions impact fluid balance

Conditions like diabetes can impact hydration as well. When blood sugar is high, urination increases leading to fluid loss. According to the Kidney Foundation, if you have kidney disease, work with your doctor on how to stay hydrated when fluids may be restricted. Heart disease can also be a special consideration because dehydration can impact the heart even further. Other conditions that cause cognitive impairment can interfere with seniors’ ability to recognize that they’re thirsty or remember to drink fluids. In this case and in the case of mobility limitations, caregivers and family members can help. 

Mobility issues can make it difficult to hydrate

When seniors use mobility aids or have difficulty moving throughout their homes, getting enough drinks throughout the day can be more difficult. You can make this easier by placing water bottles or other beverages close at hand throughout the house. Some seniors may need more help, caregivers should read the tips below. 

Guidance for caregivers to help with dehydration

Caregivers should be aware that seniors are more at risk from dehydration compared to others and keep an eye out for warning signs of dehydration. Caregivers can help older adults stay hydrated by:

  • Keeping water bottles refilled
  • Establishing routines by setting reminders and alerts to drink fluids
  • Monitoring fluid intake according to physician instructions
  • Doing regular check-ins, especially if the weather is warmer
  • Helping seniors stay cool so they aren’t losing more water and salt through sweat 

Tips for staying hydrated

There are many benefits of hydration including feeling more alert and having more energy. Here are some easy tips to add more fluids throughout the day:

Make drinking water a treat

Hydration doesn’t need to be boring. You can spruce up your beverages as an incentive to drink throughout the day. Add slices of fruit, cucumbers or herbs like mint for extra flavor. Substitute one glass of water with sparkling water or herbal, caffeine-free tea. Keep a refillable water bottle with you and refill it throughout the day. 

Eat hydrating foods

If your fluid intake is limited or drinking water is more difficult, you can use food to hydrate as well. Watermelon, cucumber, berries, and leafy greens such as spinach also help with hydration. Choose salads and soups for your meals to not only help with water intake but with replenishing electrolytes. And sugar-free Jell-O has a higher water content and can help with hydration. 

Set reminders to drink throughout the day

Make hydration a habit by drinking a full glass of water — if permitted by a physician — with your medications and your meals. Sip throughout the day and schedule a reminder for water breaks, especially in the warmer months. 

Don’t forget electrolytes

Not only do you lose water throughout the day but you also lose salt through sweat. In warmer temperatures or with higher levels of activity, you may lose more electrolytes than you realize. When you lose salt through sweat, you lose important minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Along with sodium, these minerals help maintain balance in your body and help your muscles and your brain work properly. When electrolytes are low, you can feel weak, dizzy, fatigued, and experience muscle cramps. Thankfully, electrolytes can be replenished by hydrating with electrolyte drinks such as sugar-free or low-sugar sports drinks. If your physician has limited your salt intake, ask for their recommendations on products or supplements that can help replenish electrolytes. 

The Takeaway

  • Staying hydrated is crucial for most body functions and dehydration can cause strain to the heart, brain, kidneys and more systems
  • For seniors, hydration is complicated because medications and chronic conditions can increase the risk of dehydration 
  • Talk with your doctor about how to stay hydrated with your care plan
  • Caregivers can help by keeping fluids close by, setting reminders to hydrate and doing regular check-ins
  • Make hydration easier with flavored waters or teas, eating hydrating foods, setting reminders and replenishing electrolytes

*Disclaimer:

The information provided in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical consultation or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

SmartMatch does not endorse or recommend any specific products, treatments, or procedures mentioned in this article. Reliance on any information provided in this blog post is solely at your own risk. We encourage you to discuss any health concerns or questions with your doctor before making any decisions about your health or treatment.

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