4 Ways to Prevent Elderly Dehydration

 Our elderly loved ones need a little extra TLC in the hot summer months. Get the 411 on why dehydration increases with age and get some tips on keeping your favorite senior hydrated.

combatting elderly dehydration - old woman on her porch

Dehydration is a huge issue for the elderly. A recent University of Chicago Medical Center study found that 40% of heat-related fatalities in the U.S. were among people over 65. There are a number of reasons the elderly are so prone to dehydration:

  1. The ability to notice changes in body temperature typically decreases with age.
  2. As people get older, body water content decreases.
  3. Many medications the elderly take make them more susceptible to dehydration.
  4. The elderly often experience diminished thirst; which leads to a reduced fluid consumption.
  5. With aging, the kidneys have a reduced ability to concentrate urine and retain water during water deprivation.
  6. Specific conditions, such as reduced swallowing capacity, decreased mobility, comprehension and communication disorders, as well as, decreased mobility and/or incontinence can contribute to dehydration.
  7. Many seniors have underlying health conditions that make them less able to adapt to heat.
Here are some staggering statistics, compiled from The Department of Health, The Hydration for Health Initiative, The Adult & Geriatric Institute, European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, and the  Department on Aging:
  • Dehydration has been associated with increased mortality rates among older adults and can accelerate or bring about emergency hospitalization and/or increase the risk of hospital stays.
  • Dehydration is a frequent cause of hospitalization of older adults and one of the ten most frequent diagnoses responsible for hospitalization in the United States.
  • Dehydration has been associated with many elderly health issues, including elderly confusion, impaired cognition, falling and constipation.
  • It is estimated that avoidable costs of hospitalizations resulting from dehydration is $1.14 billion, annually.

What Steps Can Be Taken To Prevent Dehydration In The Elderly?

Fluid intake is key. Families and caregivers need to be cognizant about risks and plan ahead to make sure aging loved ones. Here are some tips to help encourage fluid consumption and reduce the risk of elderly dehydration:

  1. Offer fluids on a regular basis throughout the day.
  2. Encourage 8 oz of fluid intake every time the senior takes medication.
  3. Keep water bottles and/or a water cooler available throughout the day wherever the senior is (for example, in bed, on the patio, throughout the house or at the senior living community).
  4. Provide favorite “mocktail” concoctions (see below for some great recipes) or your senior’s favorite beverages (make sure they’re not caffeinated or alcoholic).

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