Dehydration Prevention For the Elderly

quote: we never know the worth of water till the well is dry

Click the link to download a .pdf copy of ElderHealth’s Dehydration Prevention presentation by Melissa Koon, NP. Below is the information from the presentation in blog format.

Our bodies are made up of approximately 65% of water. The brain is around 85% water. A Loss of just 1-2% of total body water can impair brain function causing a range of problems from mild confusion to severe delirium.

Dehydration is an all too common cause of problems for the elderly. It is one of the top 10 reasons for being admitted to a hospital in this age group.

Melissa Koon, NP, ElderHealth

Some essential functions of water in the body:

  • Maintain a normal temperature
  • Promote normal brain function
  • Keep the joints lubricated and cushioned
  • Protect the brain and spinal cord
  • Support normal bowel movements
Although dehydration can usually be treated and reversed, long-standing and/or frequently occuring dehydration may contribute to permanent brain changes that accelerate both normal aging and pathological degeneration (i.e. dementia).
Melissa Koon, NP, ElderHealth
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Aging predisposes to dehydration due to:

  • Loss of muscle
  • Decreased thirst
  • Decreased fluid intake from a more restricted diet
  • Forgetting to drink due to memory loss
  • Difficulty obtaining drinks due to communication and/or mobility
  • Swallowing problems
  • Fear of incontinence
  • Medication use (e.g. diuretics, laxitives)
  • Illness (especially with fever, diarrhea, and/or vomiting)

Other major factors that affect hydration needs:

  • Height and weight
  • Physical activity levels
  • Weather / climate

Major signs of dehydration:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Decreased frequency of urination
  • Dark colored urine 
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness (especially with standing)
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Weak pulse
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness, fatigue, falls (!)
  • Headaches
  • Confusion, irritability (!)

Staying Hydrated

Exactly how much anyone should drink to avoid dehydration depends on the several factors (age, weight, height, activity level, climate/temperature, etc.) However, there are some general guidelines to keep in mind.

General Gender-Based Recommendations For Daily Water / Fluid Intake

Women2.5 liters85 oz10 cups
Men3.5 liters120 oz15 cups

General Weight-Based Recommendations For Daily Water / Fluid Intake

WeightOunces of Water Per DayNumber of Cups Daily
100 lbs50 oz7 cups
120 lbs60 oz8 cups
130 lbs70 oz9 cups
140 lbs80 oz10 cups
150 lbs90 oz11 cups
160 lbs100 oz12 cups
170 lbs110 oz13 cups
180 lbs120 oz15 cups
190 lbs130 oz16 cups

Specific / individualized recommendations using online calculators:

Everyday HealthCalculator-OnlineGiga CalculatorRehydrate Pro
Gender
Weight
Fruit & Vegetable Intake
Gender
Weight
Activity Levels
Weather / Climate
Age & Gender
Height & Weight
Activity Levels
Gender
Weight
Activity Levels
Weather / Climate
Altitude
Variables included

About 20 percent of your daily fluid should come from the foods you eat. Fruits, vegetables, and soups are some of the best food sources of fluid.

Hydrating Foods

FruitVegetablesWater +Other
Apples
Blueberries
Cantaloupe
Grapefruit
Grapes
Kiwi
Mangoes
Oranges
Peaches
Pears
Pineapple
Raspberries
Star fruit
Strawberries
Watermelons
Bell peppers
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Cucumber
Eggplant
Jicama
Kale
Lettuce
Radishes
Spinach
Tomatoes
Zucchini
Sparkling water
Flavored water w/
Coconut
Cranberry
Cucumber
Ginger
Lemon
Lemongrass
Lime
Mint
Orange
Parsley
Peach
Pomegranate
Raspberry
Rosemary
Strawberry
Turmeric
Applesauce
Coffee **
Crushed ice
Jello-O, Jelly Drops
Juices
Meal replacement drinks
Milk
Nutritional supplements
Popsicles
Pudding
Smoothies
Soups
Sports drinks
Tea **
Yogurt
* Consider sugar and sodium contents of these products, especially in conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

** Coffee and tea tend to increase urination and contribute to dehydration. However, this can be avoided by consuming small amounts and/or using caffeine-free options.

Consider individual needs and preferences:

Appearance

  • For example, a beverage may be more appealing if served in a pretty glass or with garnish.
  • Consider serving a healthy smoothie in an old-fashioned soda fountain glass with a piece of fresh fruit on the rim.

Taste

  • Soups and broth can taste and feel more like a meal and less like a drink.
  • For those who prefer sweets, popsicles, milkshakes, and smoothies may be better options.

Texture

  • E.g., thickness, creaminess, smoothness, lumpiness, stickiness, grittiness, etc. 

Temperature

Learn more about about Sensory-Rich Experiences Help Caregivers Communicate With Elderly Patients

  • Offer drinks regularly and keep them accessible.
  • Encourage drinking a full glass of fluid every time medications are taken.
  • Consider using modified containers if necessary (e.g. with lid, handles, and/or straw).
  • Increase fluid intake in warmer/drier conditions & before/after physical activity.
  • Encourage additional fluids when experiencing fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Caution

Excessive fluid intake can also be dangerous, even in normal healthy individuals, but especially in those with certain medical conditions, such as those involving the heart and kidneys

Some online ideas and recipes:

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