The daily recommended amounts of fluids may surprise you: 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women, more with increased exercise and in hotter climates. Elderly people are at higher risk for dehydration for a variety of factors. Matthew Bussard, a Medicare expert, based in Rhode Island, helps his clients with their healthcare enrollment questions and is well-versed in dehydration problems specific to the elderly.
Causes and Risk Factors
Elderly people naturally have less water in their bodies, so it’s easier to become dehydrated. Between the ages of 20 to 80, the overall amount of water in the body decreases by up to four liters for men and six liters for women.
The kidneys and bladder also tend to work less efficiently with age. The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste and extra fluid from the body to help control the body’s chemical balance, and the number of filtering units in the kidneys gradually decreases with age. Elasticity in the bladder weakens, affecting the ability to hold more urine.
Certain medications prescribed to the elderly produce diuretic effects that increase the risk of dehydration. This includes some blood pressure medications.
Decreased cognitive abilities with age are also a potential reason that dehydration can occur. It becomes more difficult to recognize feelings of thirst, particularly for those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Catching dehydration when it starts is important to ensure that symptoms don’t get worse. Urine color is an excellent indicator to determine if you are hydrated: if it’s clear, you’re in the clear too. Early symptoms of dehydration include any of the following: dry mouth, decrease in urination frequency, dark yellow urine, muscle cramping, or feeling lightheaded. This can escalate to confusion, vomiting, rapid heart rate, or fainting. Finally, if left untreated, dehydration can cause related health problems, such as heat stroke, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, kidney failure, or hypovolemic shock.
When Water Isn’t Enough
It is important to remember that you need to replenish more than just water loss in your body. Electrolytes—particularly sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium—are also lost through sweat and urination. Generally, people are able to fulfill their electrolyte needs from their diet, but if you are drinking an adequate amount of water for your lifestyle and still notice symptoms of dehydration, you may be low on electrolytes. You can enhance your electrolyte intake by drinking coconut water, electrolyte-infused waters like Pedialyte, and electrolyte powders or tablets that you can add to your water on the go.
Tips for encouraging proper hydration:
- Download free a hydration app that will track your daily water intake and provide regular reminders to help you stay on track.
- Limit your intake of sugary and caffeinated beverages, which can make dehydration worse.
- Incorporate foods with high water content into your diet, like watermelon, cucumbers, and low-sodium broths.
- If you need a flavor boost, make your own water infusion using various fruits and fresh herbs. You can also make your own carbonated water instantly using affordable products like SodaStream.
About Matthew Bussard
Matthew Bussard is a financial services broker offering support to Medicare users in Rhode Island. He is passionate about creating a difference in his clients’ lives by helping them enroll in Medicare with professionalism and care. Mr. Bussard volunteers with Medicare recipients at clinics, providing efficient, continual guidance to clients every step of the way. Matthew also participates in various charitable activities, including The Hunger Project, the MDRT Foundation, local clean-ups, and little league coaching. He donates to local charities and makes a difference in his community in every way possible.