Dehydration in the Elderly

Dehydration in the elderly is a very common, it happens when the body has lost too much fluid and electrolytes. Severe dehydration in the elderly can be deadly. Seniors who are the most prone to dehydration are those who do not drink a lot of water or who perspire heavily. Also, some medications or illnesses may cause dehydration.

Below are some signs of mild dehydration:
•Extreme thirst
•Dry mouth, dry tongue with thick saliva
•Headaches
•Difficulty passing urine or constipation
•Dizziness that becomes worse on standing
•Weakness
•Sleepiness
•Urinary tract infections
•Cramping in arms or legs
•Dry, warm skin
•Flushed face
•Fever
•Irritability
•Depression

Possible treatments:
•Drinking lots of fluids
•Consuming food and drink with sodium and potassium to restore electrolyte balance:

Symptoms of moderate to severe dehydration:
•Signs and symptoms of mild dehydration become worse
•Confusion
•Lethargy
•Poor skin elasticity
•Decreased consciousness/ fainting
•Lack urine output
•Shrunken eyes
•Moist, cool extremities (arms, legs, etc.)
•Severe muscle contractions in the arms, legs, stomach, back
•Rapid and faint pulse
•Low blood pressure
•Rapid breathing
•Convulsions
•Bloated stomach
•Heart failure

Possible Treatments:
•Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and should be treated at the hospital
•Replenishment of water and electrolytes through intravenous therapy or oral rehydration therapy (solution of salts and sugars taken by mouth; this treatment is most often for dehydration caused by excessive diarrhea)

Some tips to avoid dehydration:
•Have an appropriate amount of fluids daily (usually between 6-8 glasses of water will be adequate unless exercise or other strenuous activity is completed or in hot climates)
•Encouraging drinking through using smaller glasses or smaller portions (a third of a glass) in a cup can be less overwhelming for some seniors
•Check body weight regularly, fluctuations of 2-3 lbs per day may indicate irregular fluid intake
•Avoid being in the hot sun for long periods and ensure extra hydration for longer exposure
•Keep a water bottle on hand and try to drink often
•Broths or soups (contain sodium); fruit juice, soft fruits, vegetables (contains potassium) as part of general diet.

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