In all stages of life, water is essential and one of the most important nutrients for the body. When aging, the risk of dehydration becomes greater. There are factors which cause the water balance in the body systems to be disturbed. Based on evidence, there is a high rate of dehydration in the aging population, it is the most common fluid disorder and can have major clinical impacts. It has been reported that dehydration is one of the ten most common diagnoses of persons over 65 in hospitals in the United States.


Things which lead to not drinking as much fluid (the more risk factors, the greater the risk of dehydration):

  • Decreased thirst sensation
  • Reduced swallowing capacity
  • Incontinence/fear of incontinence
  • Decreased mobility
  • Some medications
  • Aged kidneys (decreased renal ability to adapt water and sodium losses)
Age related changes in the body influence water balance:

  • Decline in total body water content
  • Decrease in fluid consumption
  • Increase in fluid losses

Other factors

  • Heat index, lack of proper cooling in homes
  • Activity levels
  • Sickness


Lack of intake and fluid imbalances put the elderly at a higher risk for dehydration. Sixty-three percent of 65-74 year olds do not meet the daily requirement for proper hydration. This number increases to 73% for 75-84 year olds and 81% for 85+ years of age (Kant et al. 2009).   Dehydration is 1 of the 5 most expensive health condition to treat (Alessi et al 2003). There is an economic burden of treating dehydration in the elderly (hospitalization).
Dehydration can be associated with and contribute to many things, including

  • Impaired cognition
  • Confusion
  • Falling
  • Constipation
  • Hyperthermia
  • Glycaemic control (for diabetes or hyperglycemia)
  • Salivary dysfunction
  • UTIs
  • Kidney stones


  • Dehydration and its consequences can likely be avoided and reversed if detected and controlled early.
  • Most fluids can hydrate the cells in the body, but, there are negative consequences when the fluid choice is unhealthy.
  • Water is the first recommended fluid and should be a great deal of the daily intake.
  • The daily requirement depends on many factors, including fluid loss, diet, health conditions and the medications needed. It is always best to consult with a doctor when creating a proper hydration plan.
  • The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science in the United States recommends 125 fluid ounces for elderly men and 85 fluid ounces for women.
  • It is important for individuals and caregivers to be aware of the significance of being properly hydrated.

Ideas to encourage fluid consumption:

  • Frequent reminders
  • Drink regularly throughout the day rather than large amounts all at once
  • Monitor intake status-motivate to meet requirement
  • Offer variety
  • Adapt to the environment
  • Make drinks readily available (table, bedside water)
  • Understand the influence of medications being taken
  • Oral fluid consumption is a better choice than hospitalization as a result of dehydration.