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Nutrition for Older Adults: Water and Dehydration

Water

Recommened fluid intake is 13 cups of fluid a day for males and 9 cups a day for females. Water can come in many forms:

  • Water
  • Juice
  • Milk
  • Soup
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Soft drinks

Dehydration

Although many fluids are available many older adults become dehydrated.

Many factors put older adults at higher risk of dehydration.

  • Thirst sensation decreases with age. Older adults may not notice thirst.
  • Body water decreases with age. This leaves a smaller margin of safety for water loss.
  • Some medicines can cause water loss.
  • Some older adults may limit fluid intake due to fear of incontinence.
  • Some older adults may limit fluid intake if mobility problems make it difficult to get to the bathroom.
  • Bed-ridden or wheelchair bound older adults may have problems reaching fluids.

Risk of Dehydration

Some symptoms of dehydration are:

  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased breathing and pulse rate
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

Dehydrated older adults are also at higher risk of infections and pneumonia.

Tips to Help Fluid Intake

  • Have fluids at meals and snacks.
  • Keep fluids close at hand in a pitcher or glass to help with fluid intake.
  • Decreased strength can make it difficult to lift a full glass or pour water from a pitcher. If a person is weak using a small glass or a straw can help with fluid intake.

Sources

Whitney, E.N. & Rolfes, S.R. (2015). Understanding Nutrition, 14th ed., Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, Belmont, CA.

 

Bernstein, M., & Munoz, N. (2016). Nutrition for the Older Adult, 2nd ed., Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, MA.

 

Brown, J.E. (2014) Nutrition through the Life Cycle, 5th ed., Cengage Learning, Stamford, CT.

 

United States Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate.gov. Accessed at  www.choosemyplate.gov

 

Janice Hermann

Extension Nutrition Specialist

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