Dehydration is ranked in the top ten most frequent reasons for Medicare hospitalizations. It is a serious problem that can result in death if not taken care of. In fact, half of all patients hospitalized with dehydration as the primary diagnosis die within one year. The good news is that dehydration is very easy to prevent.

The hydration status of a person refers to their body water balance. Dehydration occurs when people don’t have enough fluid in their bodies. Many older people have problems with dehydration.

The sensation of thirst decreases with advanced age and, therefore, seniors are more at risk of becoming dehydrated. This is a well-established physiological fact for those aged 65 and over but it is also true amongst younger seniors. The sensation of thirst is a rather complex biological mechanism, which allows the body to realize that it lacks water. Thus, when we feel thirsty, our body is already slightly dehydrated.

Seniors may find they have to use the bathroom more often so they are losing more fluid. In the aging process, people’s bodies start losing muscle and gaining fat. Muscle holds water but fat does not, so as a person ages their body water decreases. Medications that increase urination or help resolve constipation can also cause dehydration.

 

Tips for Staying Hydrated

• Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink; by this time you are already dehydrated.

• Carry a water bottle with you and drink from it regularly.

• Drink at least eight cups of water every day.

• Keep a full water bottle in the refrigerator and take a drink every time you open it.

• Drink extra in extreme heat to replace the water lost from perspiring.

• Start and end the day with a glass of water.

• Do not replace water with alcohol or caffeinated drinks, which are diuretics.

• Know the following symptoms of dehydration and drink water at the first symptoms.

 

Symptoms of Dehydration

•Thirst

•Dry mouth

•Dark yellow urine

•Fatigue

•Irritability

 

The following symptoms may be life threatening. If you suspect any of them, go to the ER or contact your physician right away.

•Dizziness

•Feeling of blacking out when sitting up or standing

•Confusion

•Muscle weakness or cramps

•Sunken eyes

•Low blood pressure

•Increased heart rate