What are the signs of dehydration in the elderly?

What are the signs of dehydration in the elderly?

As we age, the way our bodies respond to things changes too. One of those age-related physiological changes is a reduced sensation of thirst. This can lead to dehydration, especially here in Queensland where temperatures can really soar. Here we outline the signs of dehydration in the elderly. 

According to Tracey Silvester, Seasons CEO, elders living with conditions such as dementia, diabetes, swallowing difficulties or taking medications such as diuretics or laxatives are particularly vulnerable to dehydration.

“Without adequate hydration, an older person has an increased risk of hospitalisation and mortality. More commonly occurring symptoms include diminished mental performance including memory, the ability to concentrate, reaction times and attention spans,” says Tracey.

“Feelings of tiredness can accompany dehydration, along with low blood pressure, sensations of weakness and dizziness which can lead to an increase in falls.”

Recognising the early signs of dehydration can make a critical difference in your health and wellbeing as you age. The signs to look out for are:


The average human body is 65 per cent water but the human brain is nearly 80 per cent water so it makes sense that the brain is the first to suffer when dehydration hits. As your brain tissue loses water, the brain begins to shrink, causing pain. Blood flow and oxygen levels in the brain are also affected, which can cause blood vessels to dilate as well as swelling and inflammation. A headache can be a sign of dehydration so try drinking a glass of water before resorting to painkillers.

Dry mouth, eyes and skin

Dry, itchy eyes, a dry mouth and skin all indicate your fluid levels may not be as high as they need to be.

The colour of your urine

This is possibly the quickest and easiest measure of dehydration. Light coloured urine indicates your hydration level is adequate. This means there is enough water to flush toxins out of the body. Dark coloured urine indicates low levels of water in the body. If you notice your urine is much darker, it is time to top up your water intake.

Feeling tired or disoriented

The electrolytes in your body become unbalanced when fluid levels drop. Low hydration levels can also affect your blood circulation. This can leave you feeling dizzy, suddenly tired or a bit muddled.

Feelings of hunger

Our brains are incredible and capable of amazing things, however, the hypothalamus, the area in the brain responsible for processing feelings of hunger or thirst, sometimes gets the two confused. If you’re eating a balanced diet but feeling hungry at odd times, this might be a sign of dehydration instead.


If you are concerned about your hydration levels, speak with your local GP or a qualified dietitian.


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