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Why Does Dehydration Affect the Elderly?

By EmpowHER November 1, 2011 - 2:45pm

Dr. Joanne Lynn, MD, explains why the elderly get dehydrated so easily and why dehydration can be risky for them.

Older people, for reasons that aren’t terribly clear, don’t detect that they’ve gotten somewhat dehydrated. So if a younger person was out in a hot dance sweating, they will be very aware of wanting something to drink.

For some reason, as you get very old that doesn’t work so well, so the person isn’t aware that they need something to drink. They have to have a habit of replacing water, so as soon as they get sick and their habit patterns get thrown off then they don’t have the same stimulus to be drinking. And they may actually need more because now they are running a little fever or they aren’t eating as much food and getting as much liquid in that way.

So dehydration is really an ongoing risk and it’s both for the otherwise pretty healthy elderly, but especially for a person who has mobility impairment, has an inability to swallow well, has an inability to get to the liquids or is undergoing some changes that are disrupting their usual schedule.

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