Combatting Dehydration in Older Adults

August 5, 2021 | Advice | Residents

Combatting Dehydration in Older Adults

You’ve probably heard the recommendation to drink eight glasses of water per day. For most people, drinking water and other fluids when they feel thirsty is enough to keep them hydrated. Not so with older adults. In fact, a 2019 study by the UCLA School of Nursing estimated that up to 40 percent of community-dwelling seniors may be chronically underhydrated.

As you age, that sense of thirst dissipates, so much so that, even though your body needs water, you might not realize it. And, by the time you are thirsty, you may already be in an early stage of dehydration. Although the reasons for the reduction in thirst has not been identified, one thing is known: dehydration in older people can lead to infections, especially urinary tract infections,  pneumonia, and other respiratory diseases. Additionally, too often an infection is treated, but the underlying cause – dehydration – isn’t discovered, which can lead to repeated infections and hospitalizations.

Hydration is important for myriad reasons. It keeps your kidneys functioning, helps regulate blood volume, and aids in digestion. Aside from the feeling of being thirsty (parched mouth or tongue), here are some other signs that you, or your loved one, might be dehydrated.

The best way to prevent these symptoms is easy: drink eight glasses of water per day. If you’re struggling to meet fluid intake recommendations, consider these tips to staying hydrated.

  1. Add flavor. Water is best on its own but can be boring. Consider jazzing your drink up by adding sliced fruit, mint leaves, or mixing in a small amount of juice.
  2. Channel your inner child. Sip on popsicles or lick fruit bars.
  3. Eat foods high in water content, such as fresh cucumbers, celery, watermelon, and strawberries.
  4. Pace yourself. No one expects you to pour an 8-ounce glass of water and down it in under a minute. Considering purchasing a fun water bottle that you take sips from throughout the day.

If you have extenuating medical circumstances, you may have more specific fluid needs. Be sure to talk with your medical provider before increasing or decreasing fluid intake.