No matter what your age, dehydration is dangerous for your health. However, older Americans are at a greater risk for dehydration than any other age group. The side effects can lead to serious health conditions. Knowing the symptoms of dehydration in the elderly and how to prevent it or treat it is important information.
Our bodies are made up of about 60 percent water. Your body relies on water and other fluids to function normally. Water helps digest food, eliminate waste, and regulate body temperature, among other things. Dehydration occurs when we lose more fluid than we take in. You cannot live for more than four days without water.
Risks of Dehydration
There are various reasons why seniors are more vulnerable to the risks of dehydration. These reasons may include:
Medications– More than 80 percent of Americans age65 and older take medications for at least one chronic condition. The average number of prescriptions per year for people age 65 to 69 years old is 15. For those age 80 to 84, the number increases to 18. Of the common drugs prescribed, some are diuretics, while others cause increased sweating and a loss of fluid.
Decreased Thirst– Older adults do not feel as thirsty as younger people do. The natural aging process weakens our body’s signal that it does not have enough fluid.
Mobility Issues – If a senior has trouble walking, they may be less likely to get a drink for themselves every time they might need one. If they have to rely on someone else to get a drink for them, they might not want to ask.
Kidney Function– The aging process leads to a decrease in kidney function and an inability to conserve fluids. This difference is more pronounced in seniors over the age of 70.
Illness– As we age, we often lose fluid when we get ill. Vomiting and/or diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration.
Symptoms of Dehydration in the Elderly
Recognizing the symptoms of dehydration in elderly people is also important. Some symptoms are more obvious and easier to spot, while others might be hidden or associated with other health conditions. These signs include:
• Dry Mouth
• Muscle Cramps
• Sunken eyes
• Rapid Heart Rate
• Dark-Colored Urine
• Difficulty Walking
How to Prevent Dehydration
Choose to drink water over beverages such as soda or coffee. Soda and coffee contain caffeine, which increases urination and decreases hydration. Sparkling water and milk are also good alternatives to plain water.
Since so many older Americans take medications, it is a good opportunity to drink a full glass of water when taking pills, rather than just a small sip.
Hydration can also come in the form of food. Fruits, vegetables, and soup are high in water content. Watermelon, cucumbers, and low-sodium broths or soups are good options.
Keep an eye on urine color. Dark urine is a sign of dehydration. Ideally, urine should be light or clear in color.
How to Recover from Dehydration
The only true way to recover from dehydration is to replace the fluids and electrolytes that have been lost. Electrolytes are essential minerals such as potassium, sodium, and calcium that the body requires to maintain hydration. There are electrolyte powders that can be mixed into water. Coconut water is also naturally rich in potassium, sodium, and chloride.
If the signs of dehydration do not resolve after adequate fluids have been given, you should seek medical advice. American Family Care has highly trained staff available to treat a wide variety of medical issues, including dehydration, and can act quickly to restore hydration in the body. Unlike a primary care physician’s office, no appointment is needed, and we offer extended hours throughout the week and weekends.
To locate an AFC near you, click here.