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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration in the Elderly?

Were you aware that dehydration can kill you? While it is essential that people of all ages remain hydrated, it is even more important that seniors stay well hydrated. This is especially true if they have memory impairment like Alzheimer’s or dementia.

One reason why seniors are at a higher risk for dehydration is because their skin becomes thinner as they get older. Thinner skin makes them more susceptible to fluid loss.

Certain medications can also cause a senior to become dehydrated. There are medications that make individuals prone to fluid loss. University of Southern California online masters in gerontology graduates work with this demographic to improve their quality of life. This includes dehydration prevention.

Medical Issues That Can Cause Dehydration

There are a wide range of medical conditions that can lead to dehydration. Consider the fact that the human body is made up of over 50% water, and it is understandable to see why this element is essential to all of our bodily functions. Each organ of the body and each body system are dependent on water. Therefore, health issues can begin to appear when there is a shortage of water in the body.

Dehydration is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization in people over 60. They are at a greater risk because the mechanism that triggers thirst in the body is not as effective as they get older. Combine that with a reduction in water weight and dehydration can occur very rapidly.

Those who are most at risk of becoming dehydrated are seniors who live alone or who are sick with the flu, a stomach virus, and any other illness that interferes with the appetite.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

Students who are interested in the study of gerontology will learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of dehydration in seniors. These signs and symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Thirst
  • Dried nasal passages
  • Cracked lips
  • Dry mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Confusion
  • Irritability

More severe symptoms include organ failure and coma.

Remedies and Treatments for Dehydration

Fortunately, there are simple, fast and effective treatments that you can begin to use to help a senior if they are showing signs of dehydration.

Prevention is always the best medicine for dehydration. Encourage the senior to increase their input of water. If they do not like the taste of plain water, look for flavored water options they may prefer. Other fluid replacement options are:

  • Clear broth
  • Juice
  • Ice cream
  • Jell-O
  • Puddings
  • Decaffeinated drinks
  • Ensure
  • Gatorade

If you notice that the senior is drinking a lot of unhealthy beverages, even more water must be added to their daily water intake. Explain to them that beverages like caffeinated tea, soda and alcoholic beverages increase dehydration, and water is necessary to metabolize those drinks in the body.

They can also increase their intake of fruits and vegetables. Most fruits and vegetables have high water content.

Remember: a lack of thirst is not a sign of adequate hydration. The body can be dehydrated for a long time before the senior feels thirsty.