How to Tell if a Senior is Dehydrated

Dehydration happens when a person doesn’t drink enough water. Occurrences of dehydration in seniors are especially common, as kidney function and the urge to drink can both decrease with age. The highest risk of dehydration is on very hot days or when a person is especially active, but it can occur at any time. Dehydration is also common in elderly, dementia patients, as they may be less likely to realize they are thirsty and/or less able to access fluids due to cognitive or mobility difficulties.

What does dehydration do to an elderly person?

Dehydration reduces important electrolyte and mineral levels in your loved one’s body (like sodium). This can lead to difficulties with basic motor skills or performing simple tasks. It can also cause cognitive problems including lack of attention and confusion, especially in elderly individuals and those with dementia.

What causes dehydration in the elderly?

Dehydration can have a number of causes

  • Diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration or make it worse as these events cause people to lose important fluids and electrolytes.
  • Warm temperatures, activities and fevers can result in sweating, which causes seniors to lose fluids and can lead to dehydration. This can be avoided by drinking fluids regularly.
  • Certain illnesses, like diabetes, as well as some medications, like diuretics, can cause a person to urinate more than normal and therefore lose fluids quickly. 

Signs of dehydration in seniors

You may be asking, what is an early sign of dehydration in the elderly? This is important to know to help keep your loved one safe. Below are some symptoms of dehydration in elderly people that you should watch out for:

  • Extreme thirst is an early sign of dehydration in the elderly.
  • If the person is not urinating regularly or their urine is dark
  • If your senior loved one reports their eyes or mouth feel dry or sticky
  • Confusion is another common sign of dehydration in the elderly
  • If the person feels lightheaded or gets dizzy, especially upon standing

Other signs of dehydration in seniors are listed below. You should pay particular attention to these symptoms, as they can indicate severe dehydration:

  • A senior who appears more tired than normal with no obvious cause
  • An elderly person who becomes agitated
  • If you notice black or bloody stool or if vomiting and/or diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours 

How do you test for dehydration in the elderly?

A doctor can always take blood pressure readings or use urine and blood tests to check kidney function, all of which can offer signs of dehydration in seniors. Below are some at-home tests you can perform to check for dehydration in your elderly loved one.

Blood pressure checks: Low blood pressure can result from dehydration. You can check this using a low-cost, at-home machine. 

Skin test: The Turgor Test uses the elasticity of the skin to test for dehydration. To complete the test, gently pinch the skin on a person’s arm and then let it go. If it springs back in a few seconds, the person’s fluid levels are probably adequate. If the skin remains pinched, this may be a symptom of dehydration in the elderly.

Nail capillary refill test: If you press on a person’s fingernail gently, it will become white as the blood is forced out of it. Check to see if the skin returns to its normal, pink condition within two seconds. If it stays white, this is another potential sign of dehydration in seniors.

Helping Seniors Avoid Dehydration

See below for some simple steps you can take to help avoid dehydration in seniors.

Have them drink plenty of fluids: It is important to drink healthy fluids such as juice, water, and milk regularly. Fluids that contain caffeine can actually lead to dehydration or make symptoms worse.

Make water taste better: Some people don’t enjoy the taste of water. To help it taste better, add juices or chunks of fruits like limes, lemons, oranges, mint, or berries to it. 

Supplement water intake with food: As an alternative to just drinking more fluids, there are many fruits and vegetables that have high water content. Eating more of these may help seniors to avoid dehydrating, as can foods like soups, broths, or yogurt. 

Help with reminders: As seniors don’t always feel thirst, you can use a kitchen or phone timer to help remind them to drink regularly. It’s also helpful to have a specific amount of water or other fluids available for them to drink (such as an 8-oz cup). As dehydration can occur quicker in hot weather or if a person is active, you may need to increase the frequency of reminders during these conditions.

Seek professional help: If you’re still concerned, you can always seek help from an elderly person’s doctor to see if medication or other conditions could be contributing to dehydration.

For more information on helping your elderly loved one to stay safe in hot weather, click here.

Find a Skilled In-Home Provider Today 

The personal care provided by our compassionate team of skilled caregivers here at Advanced Nursing + Home Support can help ensure your loved one stays safe and healthy in their own home. We are committed to ensuring our clients eat well and get enough fluids on a daily basis.

If you have a loved one who needs in-home services in Maryland or the D.C. area, set your mind at ease and contact Advanced Nursing + Home Support today. The services provided by our compassionate and skilled caregivers are unparalleled

Contact us online or by phone at 240-414-4147 to request more information.

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