Recognizing and Treating the Symptoms of Dehydration in the Elderly
As we age, we become more vulnerable to dehydration due to factors such as fluid retention, along with higher likelihood of chronic or acute illness. For these reasons, knowing the symptoms of dehydration in the elderly (whether yourself or someone else) is as wise as taking Liquid I.V.
Dehydration in the Elderly: Signs vs. Symptoms
Signs and symptoms both relate to helping diagnose an impairment or disease. Signs are what other people observe. For example, noticing someone sweating profusely may be a sign of dehydration. On the other hand, a symptom is something someone experiences, such as feeling extremely hot.
If you are older, you should know the symptoms of dehydration in the elderly. If you have an elderly person in your life, you’ll be looking for signs of dehydration.
Common Symptoms of Dehydration in the Elderly
Whether it’s signs of dehydration in kids, young adults, or older folks – symptoms of dehydration in the elderly aren’t that different from symptoms at any age.
The four most common symptoms are fatigue, dizziness, confusion, and low urine output. Since fatigue and dizziness can have multiple causes (such as allergies or flu) these two symptoms should be considered carefully, but resting and consuming some water (preferably with Liquid I.V. mixed in) are always good first steps if you’re unsure about seeking medical treatment.
Beyond the usual, look for: dry mouth, sunken eyes, inability to produce tears, difficulty walking, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure and constipation. If any of these more severe symptoms manifest, it’s worth considering medical treatment.
Symptoms of dehydration in the elderly should be given extra attention when they accompany a request for water or food. Always apply common sense when evaluating anyone an elderly person who complains of feeling overheated, tired, hungry or thirsty.
Severe dehydration can result in a stiff neck, but even at this stage drinking a half gallon or more of fluid mixed with an electrolyte powder like Liquid I.V. (that includes both electrolytes and glucose) can help with dehydration.
Symptoms of Dehydration in the Elderly: The Main Causes
The primary four reasons why seniors are more susceptible and why dehydration symptoms in the elderly are more common are:
- Decreased Thirst
Older people have a less keen sense of thirst and a lower motivation to eat and drink. Since foods also supply fluid in limited quantities, lower food intake can affect hydration levels.
- Increased Medication Use
Medications commonly have diuretic effects (they cause more urination) or increased sweating as a side effect, which leads to dehydration if not carefully monitored.
- Kidney Function
From age 50 on, the kidneys begin to lose their ability to keep fluid in the body. After age 70, this change becomes more noticeable, and may require additional fluids to be consumed to make up for the decline in retention.
Both vomiting and diarrhea directly cause dehydration, at any age, although conditions in the elderly can grow more serious at a faster rate, particularly if combined with any of the symptoms above.
A Quick Test for Symptoms of Dehydration in the Elderly
If you are observing possible dehydration from an elderly person in your life, or seeing signs of fatigue and confusion, a quick test is an easy way to do a cursory exam.
Reported symptoms of dehydration in the elderly can be assessed with the skin test.
Just pinch a bit of skin from the back of the hand. If it doesn’t spring back quickly, dehydration is likely – especially if some of the other symptoms are being reported. Also consider if the context (a hot day, several hours without food or drink, etc.) makes dehydration more likely.
Our recommendation? Keep a box or two of Liquid I.V. on hand at all times. The mixture can help a lot if you or someone you know is suffering from the symptoms of dehydration.
Education on the Symptoms of Dehydration in the Elderly
Seniors didn’t necessarily grow up with the same public health messages that many younger people have, so they may forget to drink water, and may eat small meals- contributing to dehydration even when it’s cool outside or when they are otherwise healthy.
Educating seniors about the importance of regular fluids, including juices and other beverages, can help aid early symptom recognition.
Symptoms of Dehydration in the Elderly: One Final Note
Dehydration is no joke in an older person, especially one with a common illness such as hypertension or diabetes. At the same time, symptoms of dehydration in the elderly are easily spotted with practice, and easily corrected if caught quickly. Ask questions, use the skin test, and offer water, orange juice or some Liquid I.V. to get hydration up immediately. Liquid I.V. can also be a great way to aid seniors who struggle to drink enough water, since it not only tastes great, but it hydrates 2-3x faster than water alone. Keep some on hand to aid yourself or your beloved senior citizen!