Capital Health Care NetworkUnderstanding the Signs & Symptoms
of Senior Dehydration
Seniors and the elderly are more susceptible to dehydration than their younger selves for a variety of reasons. Aging brings a reduction in our body’s ability to conserve water and also a diminished thirst mechanism. Medical conditions and certain medications can negatively affect the ability to retain water. Seniors who are incontinent often refuse or limit fluid intake in an attempt to help avoid accidents.
It is important to recognize and understand the signs and symptoms of senior dehydration. Early or initial signs may include dry mouth, headache, dry skin, decreased urination, constipation, muscle cramps, fatigue, sleepiness or lethargy. Signs and symptoms of severe stages of dehydration may include but are not limited to the following:
• Confusion, irritability, anger
• Lack of sweating
• Sunken eyes
• Low blood pressure
• Rapid breathing and/or heartbeat
• Dark urination / little or no urination
• Dry skin that stays folded when pinched
• Weak pulse
• Cold hands & feet
Severe dehydration that goes unchecked can have serious consequences including coma or even death. According to the Mayo Clinic, other serious complications include:
• Heat injury ranging in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion or potentially life-threatening heatstroke.
• Urinary and kidney problems including urinary tract infections, kidney stones and even kidney failure.
• Seizures are when normal electrical messages become mixed leading to involuntary muscle contractions and sometimes to a loss of consciousness.
• Low blood volume shock (hypoglycemic shock) which is one of the most serious, and sometimes life-threatening, complications of dehydration.