- Older adults are at increased risk for
dehydration because of age-related changes.
- Signs of dehydration include skin tenting in
the forehead, concentrated urine, dizziness, increased heart rate,
dryness in the nose and mouth, constipation, and acute confusion.
- Healthy older adults should aim for 1.5 –
2 litres (6 – 8 glasses) of liquid intake per day.
- Water is a nutrient and an essential
component of the body for maintaining life. Water transports wastes,
supports tissue and cell structure, and regulates temperature.
- The lack of water in the body –
dehydration – may result from either a decrease in fluid
intake or an increase in fluid loss. Dehydration can be an important
factor in illness and even death.
- Older people are especially prone to
dehydration because of age-related changes in how water is used in
- It is essential that caregivers understand
how to identify, and prevent, this potentially life-threatening
Certain aging changes increase the older
person's risk of developing dehydration.
- The function of the kidneys, which helps to
regulate fluid, declines with aging.
- The ability to recognize thirst decreases
with aging -- sometimes older people don't realize they are
- With aging, the amount of body water
decreases. So even a small change in fluid intake can cause
The following factors can lead to fluid loss
- kidney problems or diabetes
- medications such as diuretics (water pills)
increase the amount of fluid excreted from the body
- conditions such as Parkinson's disease,
stroke, or dementia may cause swallowing difficulties that can lead
to a decrease in fluid intake
of dehydration include:
- dry mouth and nose
- loose and/or dry skin
- skin "tenting" in the forehead
- increased tiredness and/or weakness
- sudden (acute) confusion
- concentrated urine
- dizziness and orthostatic hypotension
(standing causes sudden drop in blood pressure, feeling dizzy, and
- increased heart rate
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
Some of these symptoms, such as dry mouth, loose
and/or dry skin, and constipation, may occur as a result of
age-related changes rather than dehydration.
To help avoid dehydration, older adults should
be encouraged to:
- Identify medications that may cause fluid
loss, e.g., diuretics (water pills).
- Drink 1.5 – 2 litres (6 – 8
glasses) of fluids per day (unless medical conditions, such as
congestive heart failure, rule out this amount).
- Keep a variety of beverages available (that
are okay with your specific diet, e.g., diabetes), as well as foods
containing water (e.g., fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt).
- Drink frequently during the daytime, rather
than drinking large amounts at one time.
Seek medical attention:
- if symptoms of dehydration persist, or
- if you observe swallowing difficulties such
as choking or coughing excessively after eating or drinking
Dietitians of Canada
Health Canada – Canada's Food Guide
Website: The Dietitians of Canada website provides
information on healthy eating and dietary options.
The Heat With Lots of Fluids: An article that
provides information about water, including tips for adequate
County – Hydration
Website: The purpose of Canada's Food Guide is to
guide food selection and promote the nutritional health of
Information about choosing and enjoying beverages.
Clinic – Dehydration
- A succinct article explaining why water is
important for seniors as well as providing both good and bad
examples of fluids.
- A comprehensive article from the Mayo Clinic
about dehydration, including signs and symptoms, causes,
complications, treatment and prevention.
Council on Long Term Care
- An overview by HealthyOntario.com about
- The Importance of Water includes
information about dehydration and the elderly and taking a proactive
approach to preventing dehydration.
- This webpage answers the question, "Why
is water so important for my body?"