What Are the Symptoms of Dehydration in Seniors?

Steven Mott by Steven Mott | Licensed since 2012
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This article was updated on: 09/15/2018

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Some seniors might not drink enough fluids, but that’s not the only thing that can cause dehydration. Whether you’re a senior or a caregiver, learn the symptoms and causes of dehydration so you can help prevent this dangerous condition.

What is dehydration?

According to the National Library of Medicine, dehydration is a condition where your body doesn’t have enough fluid (like water) or electrolytes. Electrolytes are essential minerals, like salt and calcium, that your help your body stay properly hydrated.

In some cases, dehydration can cause death, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Symptoms of dehydration

Here are some signs that you may be dehydrated. These signs of dehydration are from the National Library of Medicine, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the Mayo Clinic.

  • Thirst or dry mouth
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Not urinating as often as usual
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Low blood pressure

If you’re a caregiver for someone who has Alzheimer’s or who has trouble communicating, you may want to make sure he or she drinks plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. The National Institute on Aging recommends that you watch for the symptoms listed above.

Causes of dehydration

The Mayo Clinic reports that old age brings with it a higher risk of dehydration than with younger people. This is partly because your fluid reserves in your body are smaller when you’re a senior, and because seniors might not feel thirsty when they need to drink more fluids.

Dehydration happens when your body loses too much fluid, or you don’t drink enough liquids such as water, reports the National Library of Medicine. Here are some possible causes of dehydration:

  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Excessive sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat or mouth sores
  • Excessive urination – for example, if you have diabetes

Sources: National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic

Some medications can cause dehydration, as can drinking alcohol, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Treating dehydration

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) advises that you drink small amounts of water if you’re dehydrated. Drinking a large amount at once might cause vomiting.

Sports drinks can help treat or prevent dehydration if you’re exercising, according to the NLM. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine.

Preventing dehydration

You may be able to prevent dehydration if you think ahead. The Mayo Clinic advises you to drink extra water when:

  • You have diarrhea or you’ve been vomiting
  • You’re outside in hot weather, or even indoors if it’s hot or dry
  • You’re sick – this is a time you may need extra fluids, according to the Mayo Clinic
  • You’re exercising or have just finished exercising

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