What is Dehydration and the Effects on a Aging Human Body

· 5 min read

Dehydration is when a body loses more fluid than what it takes in.

When someone feels dehydrated, that could mean that they have been losing fluid due to exercise or just from not putting more fluid, more specifically water, back into their system. Dehydration has three stages: mild, moderate and severe. It is important to consult a medical professional in the event of dehydration.

The main causes of dehydration in elderly adults includes:

  • Diabetes
  • Inability to drink water due to illness (flu, cold, etc.)
  • Increased urination
  • Fever
  • Excess exercise

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration?

Dehydration symptoms can range from mild to severe and will impact everyone differently. However, there are signs and symptoms that are common during times of dehydration. These signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness – especially upon standing up.
  • Being sleepy or more tired than usual.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Urination is less frequent.
  • Urine is a darker yellow color – much darker than usual.
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Drop in blood pressure – especially after standing up from a sitting or lying down position.
  • Increased heart rates
  • Skin elasticity decreases.

If you or your aging loved one is experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, please consult a medical professional immediately.

How Is Dehydration Treated?

Treatment for dehydration in its earliest stages is straightforward and easy. If you are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of dehydration, sipping on water or sports drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade, can help put fluids back into your body and cells. If you are feeling ill and are unable to drink fluids, it is advised to suck on ice chips or popsicles that may be made from sports drinks or water. This will get the fluids back into your system without having the harsh effect of chugging fluids on your stomach. However, as dehydration approaches the severe stage, it is best to let a medical professional handle treating the elderly individual. Severe dehydration can be treated with intravenous treatments to help replace the fluid that has been lost from the body.

A woman helping an elderly woman by holding her arm and a drink

How Can You Prevent Dehydration?

Preventing dehydration can be as simple as setting a reminder to drink water regularly. Staying hydrated can help elderly individuals feel more alert, happier and healthier. The first step to maintaining hydration is to consult your doctor about how much water you should drink daily. Your daily intake will be calculated by a medical professional based on your medical history, body mass and medical needs. After you receive that number from your doctor, it will be up to you (or your caregiver) to ensure that you are reminded often to drink water. There are cell phone apps that can help remind you every hour to take a few sips of water, or perhaps it is an old school alarm that goes off every hour on the hour. A caregiver can provide an extra set of reminders for you to drink water and stay hydrated through out the day.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

An important step in preventing dehydration is preparing for the day that lies ahead. Whether that day consists of lounging at home or traveling to and from doctors’ appointments, it is important to prepare. Having water bottles, ice chips or sports drinks on hand will make hydration easy and accessible! A caregiver can be sure to pick up the appropriate amount of fluids that the elderly adult needs to remain hydrated throughout the day. Planning for the day will give no room for failure or dehydration and will make way for happiness and healthy decisions!

Hydrating your body is one of the most important ways that elderly individuals can take care of themselves. As we age, our health starts to decline naturally and our body may start to feel slower and sluggish. By staying hydrated, elderly adults can feel refreshed, awake and vigorous.

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