Dehydration in Seniors – A Serious Concern

Dehydration can be a problem for people of all ages, but is particularly worrisome in older adults. Adequate hydration allows the body to regulate temperature through sweating, eliminate body waste and maintain blood pressure.  Dehydration occurs when more water is being lost than is taken in. This can wreak havoc on the body, but is not always readily apparent.

There are many causes of this condition:

As people age and begin to lose muscle mass, they naturally lose water (muscle cells contain more water than fat cells). 

The ability to feel thirst declines as we age, making us less likely to reach for that glass of water.

 Fear of incontinence can also decrease the urge to drink voluntarily.

Many seniors are taking a number of medications including diuretics, blood pressure, and anti- depressants that can also contribute to water loss. 

In addition, the kidneys don’t function as efficiently to conserve fluids. This becomes more acute around the age of 70.

Dehydration is one of the 10 most common causes of hospitalizations in the elderly and in extreme cases can be life threatening. Caregivers and family members should be aware of the early warning signs. These can include:

Confusion with dizziness and difficulty walking

Dry mouth


Sunken eyes

Sleepiness and irritability

Constipation and/or low urine output generally dark in color.

Lack of elasticity in the skin.  (Gently pull the skin on the back of the person’s hand up, and hold it there for a few seconds before letting it go.  If the skin does not bounce back within a few seconds the person is dehydrated.)

Researchers have linked poor hydration to a variety of serious health concerns including:

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Heart disease

Kidney disease

Bladder and colon cancer

Lung problems

They also found a relationship between low fluid intake and increased mortality rates in older adults.

To help make sure that you and your loved ones don’t become dehydrated, make sure to consume an adequate amount of fluids during the day.  Although everyone’s daily needs vary somewhat, five 8-ounce glasses is a good benchmark for seniors. According to recent studies water doesn’t need to be the only liquid of choice.  Milk and orange juice are also effective in re-hydrating.

Around 20 percent of your daily water intake actually comes from the foods you eat.  Whole foods have the highest water content.  Many fruits and vegetables contain between 80 and 98 percent water.

Cucumber has the highest water content of solid foods.  Try cold cucumber soup with mint, lemon and yogurt for a refreshing summer treat.

Iceberg lettuce which has a bad rap for nutrition is good for hydration with a 95.6 percent water content.

Celery contains both fiber and water.  It also contains folate, and vitamins A, C, and K.

Radishes have a very high water content and are filled with antioxidants. They are a nice addition, sliced on salads.

Tomatoes of all sizes and colors are a great hydrating snack.

Many people know that watermelon is full of water as its name indicates, but it is also a great source of lycopene (a cancer fighting anti-oxidant). Put frozen watermelon cubes in the bottom of a water pitcher for a delicious beverage.

Other hydrating food choices include: applesauce, popsicles, yogurt, strawberries, oranges, and red grapes.

For more information on how to prevent dehydration in seniors, please contact Rosewood Manor.

By Penny Majike, Director of Marketing and Admissions for Rosewood Manor

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About Ann Luongo

Ann Luongo is the Marketing Writer and Lifestyle Reporter for, and has been writing for Cape Cod and South Shore publications for over 15 years.
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