Negative Effects of Dehydration in Older Adults

Negative Effects of Dehydration in Older adults.

Dehydration in older adults occurs when the body begins to lose or use more fluids than it gets.

Humans are approximately 75% water by mass as infants and 50% to 60% water by mass as adults. However, Dehydration occurs due to the inability of an individual to meet up to the body’s requirements of water or fluid intake.


  • Older adults, children, people with chronic illnesses and people who exercise outside are prone to suffer from dehydration.
  • Less severe dehydration can be treated by replacing lost fluids and lost electrolytes.
  • The risk of dehydration increases in older-adults above 65 years of age.


  • Headache
  • Dry mouth and chapped lips
  • Reduced urine quantity.
  • Darker urine colour
  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing
  • Weakness
  • Dizzy spells and fainting
  • Dry skin

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  • Exposing oneself to hot weather conditions such as sun and heat waves can make one to sweat profusely and sweating makes one to lose body fluids which can cause dehydration.
  • Some sickness may lead to loss of body fluids and electrolytes, when this occurs, the individual begins to show signs of weakness and this sign of weakness may be because of dehydration.
  • There are some medications that will make the patient to urinate more frequently. Frequent urination poses a great risk for dehydration.
  • Older adults may not be as mobile as they used to be for various reasons, they might need the assistance of others to get access to water or be reminded to rehydrate regularly.


Diagnosis of dehydration in older adults can be carried out in three (3) ways namely: Pinching method, Blood test method and the urinalysis method.

  • The Pinching method: This is a dehydration testing technique carried out by pinching the skin on the back of the hand, the pinched skin is lifted to some certain height and then released, if the skin returns to normal then it can be diagnosed that the person is hydrated but if the skin remains raised and appears wrinkled, it can then be diagnosed that the person is suffering from dehydration.
  • Blood test: A serum osmolality test measures the freezing point of blood serum to show how concentrated a sample of blood is. People’s blood becomes more concentrated as they become dehydrated. Blood samples may be used to check for several factors, such as the levels of your electrolytes especially sodium and potassium and how well your kidneys are working.
  • Urinalysis: Urine of a dehydrated person becomes concentrated and exhibit a dark yellow colouration. After urinalysis is conducted, the urine specific gravity results will fall between 1.002 and 1.030 if you are hydrated and if your kidneys are functioning normally. But if the Specific gravity result shows above 1.010 it can indicate mild dehydration. The higher the number, the more dehydrated you may be.


The main treatment of dehydration is hydration.

There are times when drinking water alone will not be helpful. In the case of treating severe dehydration, a hospital may give intravenous fluids, oral rehydration solution may also be given.


  • Drink water periodically. Older adults may not recognise when they begin to get dehydrated, so it is advisable to regularly drink water. A reminder can be set every two to three hours for this.
  • Eating fruits and vegetables with high water content such as cucumber, watermelon etc.
  • Coconut water: Coconut water contains five (5) major electrolytes namely: potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and sodium. Electrolytes are needed to keep the body hydrated.


Some people think that taking any form of liquid when dehydrated will help reduce the negative symptoms of dehydration, but some drinks may pose more threat and increase the level of dehydration.

Taking drinks rich in caffeine or alcoholic drinks increases the level of dehydration in the body because the higher the alcoholic content in a drink or beverage the higher the rate of dehydration, so therefore, it is advisable to avoid any drink or beverage product that contains caffeine or some percentage of alcohol when dehydrated.


What drinks are the most dehydrating?

  Coffee, tea, soda, and alcohol are drinks associated with dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which removes water from the body. Drinks such as coffee and soda are mild diuretics so they can have dehydrating effects on the body.

What are the negative effects of dehydration in Older adults?

Dehydration may lead to low blood volume shock, cramps, seizures, Weakness, Exhaustion, Urinary and kidney related issues, and Heat stroke.


Dehydration makes the body’s system to be unable to carry out its metabolic activities thereby posing the body to a great danger.

Drinking enough water will help keep the body hydrated. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is: About 15.5 cups (3.7 litres) of fluids a day for men. About 11.5 cups (2.7 litres) of fluids a day for women.

Read also: How To Manage Anxiety in Older Adults


Brinkman JE, Dorius B, Sharma S. Physiology, Body Fluids. [Updated 2021 May 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-.

Berrocal, Y., Fisher, J., Regan, J., & Christison, A. L. (2018). Dehydration: A Multidisciplinary Case-Based Discussion for First-Year Medical Students. MedEdPORTAL : the journal of teaching and learning resources14, 10725.

Lee Hooper et al. Diagnostic accuracy of calculated serum osmolarity to predict dehydration in older people: adding value to pathology lab reports. BMJ Open, October 2015 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008846

Samuel N Cheuvront, Urinalysis for hydration assessment: an age-old problem, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 104, Issue 1, July 2016, Pages 3–4,

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