Does Your Senior Drink Enough Water?

Last updated on August 08, 2023

You probably heard that drinking eight glasses of water per day is vital for your health. Although no scientific evidence backs this recommendation, drinking fluids throughout the day is essential to keep your body hydrated and running optimally.

Drinking water is especially important for seniors, who may need increased amounts of fluid to remain hydrated. The National Council on Aging reported a study that found up to 40 percent of elderly people may be chronically underhydrated.

Why is Hydration Important for Seniors?

Normal aging-related changes and impairments may put seniors at increased risk of dehydration. For example, thirst sensation decreases with age, so older adults may not realize they need to increase their fluid intake. Also, chronic illnesses such as diabetes, dementia, and kidney problems—along with certain medications that lead to more frequent urination—may cause them to consume or retain less water.

Seniors with swallowing problems might have difficulties drinking even if they feel thirsty, and those with mobility and continence problems may limit their water intake due to inconvenience or mobility challenges. In addition, older adults with memory problems may forget when and if they had something to drink and how much they consumed.

What Are the Symptoms of Dehydration?

It can be hard to identify dehydration in seniors. Some symptoms of dehydration in older adults are similar to other health conditions, and some signs may not be obvious. Below are some mild to severe symptoms that can signal dehydration:

Mild symptoms

  • Constipation
  • Dry or sticky lips and mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Infrequent or dark urination
  • Muscle cramping

Severe symptoms

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Fast heart rate and breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If your senior is experiencing mild symptoms of dehydration, consult a physician, who may schedule blood tests or urinalysis to confirm a diagnosis and rule out certain medical problems.

If your senior shows signs of severe dehydration, take them immediately to an urgent care facility or emergency room, where salts and fluids can be delivered intravenously for a fast recovery.

What Are the Consequences of Severe Dehydration?

Underhydration over time can aggravate chronic conditions or create more serious health problems for seniors, including:

  • Blood clot complications
  • Heat stroke
  • Kidney stones
  • Lowered blood volume
  • Seizures due to electrolyte imbalances
  • Shock
  • Urinary tract infections

How Much Water Is Enough for Seniors?

Recommended water intake for seniors varies, but your senior should generally aim to drink one-third to one-half of their body weight in ounces daily. For example, if your senior weighs 150 pounds, they should aim to drink 50-75 ounces of water per day.

Older adults living in a warm climate might perspire and need even more water. Exercise, medications, and health conditions may also increase their hydration needs. Your loved one’s doctor can provide a personalized water intake recommendation based on environment, health, and activity level.

How Can I Increase My Senior’s Fluid Intake?

Family and professional caregivers play an important role in preventing dehydration by encouraging adequate fluid intake. Although getting your older loved one to drink more water may be challenging, you can get creative by introducing new sources of fluid—in fruits, sugar-free beverages, or frozen snacks.

Caregivers can also help by gradually introducing new routines that include drinking water more frequently during different times of the day. 

Here are some tips to help:

  • Place a water bottle near your senior so they can take frequent sips throughout the day
  • Put a pitcher of water into the refrigerator for ready use
  • Add lemon to water
  • Serve homemade soup with lunch or as a snack. If using canned soup, choose low-sodium varieties to avoid increasing thirst
  • Make smoothies that combine both water and fruit
  • Add Ensure or sports drinks to your loved one’s diet
  • Have your senior drink a full glass of water with medication
  • Replace sugary drinks with water
  • Find a favorite beverage
  • Introduce fruits and vegetables high in water content, such as melons, berries, citrus, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers
  • Limit alcohol to one drink per day for women and two for men

Professional home care can assist when you can’t be there for your senior. Contact Visiting Angels today to learn how an in-home care provider can help your loved one remain hydrated and healthy while reducing their risk of health complications.

If you're interested in our compassionate home care services for you or a loved one, contact your nearest Visiting Angels home care agency today or call 800-365-4189.
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