Q&A: How to Prevent, Detect, & Treat Dehydration in Aging Adults

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Dehydration is an issue for many seniors and for the caregivers who surround them. How do you make sure your loved one drinks enough water? Do other beverages count? And how do you detect dehydration? These are some of the frequently asked questions when it comes to dehydration. This article, by BetterHealthWhileAging.net discusses whats to prevent, detect and treat dehydration in aging adults.

Q: How can we get my older mother to drink more water? She is susceptible to urinary tract infections and seems to be often dehydrated no matter what we do. We were also wondering if coffee and tea are okay, or should they be avoided to reduce dehydration?

A: Dehydration is indeed an important problem for older adults. It can be common even when it’s not hot outside.

Helping an older person increase her fluid intake, as you’re trying to do, is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of dehydration.

Now how to actually do this? Studies — and practical experience — suggest that the best approaches include:

  1. Frequently offering the older person a drink, preferably on a schedule,
  2. Offering beverages the person seems to prefer,
  3. Not expecting older adults to drink a large quantity at a single sitting,
  4. Addressing any continence issues that might be making the person reluctant to drink often.

But your question brings up other issues in my mind. Has frequent dehydration been confirmed? (Dehydration can be hard to correctly diagnose.) Have you been able to measure how much your mother drinks, and how does this amount compare to the recommended daily fluid intake for older adults?

Also, is the real goal to prevent or manage frequent urinary infections, and is increasing her hydration likely to achieve this?

So let’s review the basics of dehydration in older adults, and what’s known about helping older adults stay hydrated. I will then share some additional tips on helping your mother maintain hydration.