Dehydration is the process where a body loses more fluids than it takes
in. When a person is dehydrated for too long, their body does not have
sufficient fluid to carry out the normal bodily functions, and this can
be a serious problem.
While anyone can become dehydrated temporarily on a hot day, or if they
forget to drink water, the condition cannot be underestimated. For the
elderly in particular, dehydration can be life-threatening if left unchecked.
Dehydration is the “silent killer” in America’s nursing homes.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Older adults naturally have a lower
volume of water in their bodies, and may have conditions or take medications
that increase the risk of dehydration.”
In the elderly, thirst alone is not enough to determine if the body needs
water. Older adults may not feel thirst, even when they are dehydrated.
For this reason, it’s critical that caregivers are vigilant about
ensuring residents receive adequate fluids, especially while on certain
medications or while ill.
Some of the signs of dehydration, include:
- Dry mouth
- Dry tongue
- Extreme thirst
- Sunken eyes
- Sunken cheeks
- Infrequent urination
In older adults, the body’s ability to retain and conserve water
is reduced and the feeling of thirst becomes less acute. These common
issues are exaggerated by dementia and chronic illnesses, such as diabetes,
as well as certain types of medications. When an older adult becomes less
mobile, they lose the ability to get themselves water, further compounding
What are the Complications?
Dehydration can lead to serious, life-threatening problems in adults and children
alike; however, the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Dehydration can
lead to serious complications, such as seizures, urinary and kidney problems,
and hypovolemic shock (one of the most life-threatening complications
caused by a drop in oxygen and blood pressure).
In the nursing home setting, dehydration is not only complicated by short
staffing, but by the failure to recognize the signs of dehydration –
both of which can inadvertently lead to the debilitating, if not life-threatening
effects of dehydration.
If your loved one has suffered because of dehydration,
contact our offices
at once to schedule a free consultation with a Los Angeles