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Chronically Dehydrated Symptoms In Seniors

Chronic dehydration can be deadly for seniors and what’s worse is that it can be difficult to discover. It’s important to know what chronically dehydrated symptoms are so you can help your loved ones get the help they need.

What Is Chronic Dehydration In Seniors?

Dehydration is a medical condition where the body does not have enough fluids to function properly. This can lead to more serious complications such as decreased kidney function in the long run. We all might have faced acute dehydration at some point in our lives, either due to forgetting to drink water or exercising vigorously.

However, chronic dehydration is when the body is constantly running on low fluids, no matter how much water a person is drinking. Chronic dehydration is more likely to happen in seniors as well as toddlers and infants.

Symptoms of Chronic Dehydration

There are a variety of chronically dehydrated signs and symptoms you can look out for in your loved one. These include:

  • Dizziness

  • Fainting

  • Dark-colored urine

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle cramps

  • Dry, itchy skin

  • Daily or frequent Headaches

Some of these symptoms can easily be seen, such as dry skin and dark-colored urine. However, it’s difficult to tell if your loved one is experiencing headaches or dizziness if they don’t tell you. This is especially true if your family member has a medical illness that impacts their memory or cognitive abilities, such as dementia or Alzheimer's. This is why it’s important to look out for other symptoms such as fatigue, or any changes you might notice tiny our loved one.

What Causes Chronic Dehydration?

There are many factors that can lead to chronic dehydration, especially if your loved one currently lives alone or has memory issues. These include:

  • Living in a hot environment

  • Exercising vigorously

  • Working outdoors

  • Forgetting to drink water

  • Medical illnesses such as diarrhea, vomiting, or kidney stones

  • Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine

  • Medication such as diuretics that treat high blood pressure

How Is Chronic Dehydration Diagnosed?

Chronic dehydration can lead to conditions such as heatstroke or fainting, which will cause your loved one to go to a hospital. Here, a doctor can quickly diagnose dehydration as the cause of their heatstroke of fainting.

However, sometimes chronic dehydration can go undiagnosed for months, especially if you don’t know what chronically dehydrated symptoms to look for. Because it’s hard to tell whether or not your loved one is experiencing chronically dehydrated symptoms or something else, it’s best to get the help of a primary care doctor. A doctor can diagnose chronic dehydration through tests such as:

  • A skin turgor test

  • Urine tests

  • Chemistry panel tests

How Is Chronic Dehydration Treated?

If a doctor diagnoses your family member with dehydration, they can then provide treatment if the dehydration is severe, such as IV fluids. This is the fastest way to treat dehydration. Severe dehydration usually results in a hospital stay between one and two days.

If your loved one is chronically dehydrated, your doctor can also prescribe electrolyte drinks to help restore minerals such as potassium to the body. In addition, if your loved one’s dehydration is caused by something such as diarrhea or vomiting, the underlying cause will be treated first to help restore fluids. This process will be different for everyone, so it’s best to seek medical care right away in this situation.

For those that have chronic dehydration but are safe to return home, your doctor will recommend they increase their fluid intake. Normal fluid intake will vary for everyone, but it’s recommended from some research that older adults drink 1.7 liters of fluid every 24 hours, or a little over 7 cups a day. It can take anywhere between one to two weeks of increasing fluid intake to reverse chronic dehydration.

How To Avoid Chronic Dehydration

Once a doctor treats the initial dehydration, they will recommend lifestyle changes to help keep the dehydration from coming back. These might include:

  • Tracking the amount of water your loved one drinks through a journal or app

  • Limiting outdoor time

  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol

  • Decrease the amount diuretic medication therapy

  • Increasing foods that have a high water volume

  • Getting Extra Help




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