Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. Initially, dehydration can lead to headaches, constipation, and lethargy. Prolonged or severe dehydration can cause serious health problems and can even lead to death. Staying adequately hydrated, especially in hot weather, is absolutely essential for seniors.
Seniors Are at a Higher Risk of Dehydration
According to experts, older adults don’t feel thirst as intensely as younger people and may not think to drink water throughout the day. Aging bodies also have a reduced ability to regulate the balance of fluids, further increasing the risk of dehydration. At the same time, the ability of the kidneys to remove toxins from the body declines with age, leaving seniors at a higher risk of the dangerous effects of dehydration.
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
Mild dehydration causes a dry mouth, headaches, cramping in the arms and legs, and general, overall weakness. Seniors who are mildly dehydrated may pass only very small amounts of dark yellow urine.
Serious dehydration can lead to severe cramping in the limbs, back, and stomach, and it can cause low blood pressure, convulsions, and a weak, rapid pulse. The eyes may appear sunken and the skin more wrinkled. Dehydrated seniors will typically lose their ability to sweat or produce tears, and confusion, dizziness, and fainting may occur.
What to Do for a Dehydrated Senior
When signs of mild dehydration are present, seniors should rehydrate gradually with frequent sips of water or a sports drink, which can help replenish electrolytes. When signs of more serious dehydration are present, medical intervention is essential for quickly replenishing the body’s fluids and preventing the dangerous effects of dehydration.
How to Stay Adequately Hydrated
Aging adults should make a point to drink at least five 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Caregivers should encourage regular drinking throughout the day to prevent thirst, which is an indication that dehydration has already occurred. A good gauge of adequate hydration is the color of urine, which should be clear to very light yellow. Darker yellow urine is a sure sign that more fluids are needed.