Strategies to Keep an Elderly Person Hydrated

A wellness issue that is pervasive in U.S. society today is that most people do not drink enough water on a daily basis. Many people are at least mildly if not moderately dehydrated. This is particularly true among older Americans. If you are an older individual, or if you are the adult child of an aging parent, there are some strategies you should consider implementing in order to keep your older mother or father hydrated and as healthy as possible.

Signs of Dehydration

In advance of considering strategies that can aid an older individual in staying hydrated, we provide for you the 12 most commonplace signs of dehydration:

  • Thirst 
  • Dark urine
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Muscle cramps or weakness
  • Constipation
  • Less frequent urination
  • Dry skin
  • Lack of skin elasticity
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Confusion


If an older individual is thirsty, that person likely already is dehydrated at least to some degree. As a person ages, the sense of thirst kicks in more slowly that when an individual was younger. Although the amount of water an older person should drink depends on weight and activity level, there is a fairly widely held belief among medical professionals that about six 8-ounce glasses of water should be consumed every day.

Dark Urine

A second sign of dehydration is found in the color of a person’s urine. The more fluid in a person’s body – the more hydrated a person – the clearer his or her urine will be at that time. If an individual’s urine is a dark yellow or even a brownish color, that is indicative of dehydration. The urine may also have a stronger odor when an individual is dehydrated. 

Dizziness or Fainting

It is important to note that dizziness and fainting can be a sign of a number of different health conditions. Dehydration is also the cause of dizziness and fainting for some people. When an individual is dehydrated, that individual does not have enough fluid in blood vessels. Thus, there is not enough fluid traversing to the brain. This can result in dizziness or fainting. The AARP advises its members about dizziness and fainting related to dehydration: 

You’re most likely to feel dizzy when you sit up after lying down or stand up from sitting. If the blood flow to your brain drops significantly, you may notice a darkness in front of your eyes, Hashmi says. That may be a sign you’re about to pass out from dehydration.

Muscle Cramps or Weakness

Yet another indicator of dehydration is muscle cramps or weakness in muscles. Hydration-related cramps and weakness typically are caused by reduced blood flow to muscles coupled with electrolyte imbalances.


Water keeps the digestive system running smoothly. A lack of a proper amount of water can result in irregular bowel movements in a person of any age.

Less Frequent Urination

Water aids in eliminating toxins from the body. This is a primary function of the kidneys. If a person is not urinating every two to three hours, that individual may be suffering from dehydration. 

Dry Skin

Dehydration makes a person’s skin look dry, even a bit flaky. As an aside, a lack of proper water consumption can also render a person having a sunken appearance in certain parts of the body, particularly around his or her eyes.

Lack of Skin Elasticity

On a somewhat related note, dehydration can render skin with a lack of elasticity. The best way to test if this is occurring is to gently pinch a person’s skin. If it doesn’t “snap back” to its prior state as quickly has historically occurred, that person may be dehydrated. 

Dry Mouth

If an elderly person (or any individual, for that matter) is experiencing more significant dry mouth than normal, a lack of proper hydration may be a problem. 


Fatigue is yet another indicator of dehydration. As will be discussed a bit further at the end of this article, fatigue can be indicative of some other healthcare or medical issues as well. 


A person who is dehydrated is apt to experience headaches as well. This can prove to be particularly painful headaches in some instances. Such headaches usually dissipate fairly quickly when an individual becomes better hydrated. 


Finally, if an individual is confused, that confusion can stem from a number of issues which can include dehydration. 

Tactics to Keep Elderly Individuals Hydrated

There are seven key tactics that should be considered when it comes to keeping elderly women and men as reasonably hydrated as possible:

  • Leave water out
  • Make obtaining water physically easier
  • Use reminders
  • Make enjoyable beverages
  • Provide hydrating foods
  • Avoid drying foods and beverages
  • Serve water at meals

Leave Water Out

If water is more readily available, an older person is more inclined to drink it. As a consequence, a private caregiver should endeavor to ensure that water is readily accessible to an older person throughout his or her home. An idea is to leave glasses of fresh water in each room.

If an older individual is living in a long-term care center like an assisted living community, hydration stations should be located in different locations in the facility. 

Make Obtaining Water Physically Easier

Some older individuals have dexterity and other issues that make it more difficult to physically access water contained in jugs or pitchers. As a consequence, steps should be taken to make obtaining water as physically easy as possible. This can include:

  • Using two-handled cups
  • Using easy-to-mouth bottles
  • Using one-way straws
  • Using easy to operate automatic water dispensers

Use Reminders

Leaving notes or setting an hourly “water alarm” can assist an older individual in remembering to drink water. Notes can be left at different locations in an older person’s home. Similarly, reminders of this nature can be placed in various locations within an assisted living community. 

Make Enjoyable Beverages

Care needs to be taken that water substitutes are not utilized that defeat the purpose of hydration. For example, caffeinated beverages do not enhance an individual’s hydration. They tend to do the exact opposite. The same can be said of certain taste enhancers that can be added to plain water to make it more appealing. Adding lemon, orange, or even cucumber to water can make it taste more appealing for many people. 

Provide Hydrating Foods

There are some foods that are high in water content. These can be helpful when it comes to keeping an elderly individual hydrated on a consistent basis. Examples of these types of foods include, but are not limited to:

  • Juicy fruits (watermelon, peaches, tomatoes, and so forth)
  • Juicier fresh vegetables (cucumber)
  • Cottage cheese

Avoid Drying Foods and Beverages

If an older individual is having problems staying hydrated, attempts should be made to avoid or limit the consumption of drying foods and beverages that will only work to make the situation worse. Examples of these types of foods and beverages include:

  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Protein drinks

Enjoying these items can be done if their consumption is offset by an appropriate increase in water consumption. 

Serve Water at Meals

Finally, an oftentimes effective strategy to prevent dehydration among older individuals is to serve water at meals. If a person has a glass of fresh water during each of three meals a day, an individual will be halfway towards the basic goal of six 8-ounce glasses of water each day.

In conclusion, there are a few basic additional points to bear in mind:

  • The signs of dehydration mentioned here can be symptoms of some other types of medical conditions. Therefore, if a symptom mentioned here is not resolved when a person becomes hydrated, a consultation with a physician is necessary.
  • Take care in regard to substituting other beverages for fresh water. Yes, there are some beverages that can be hydrating. However, the most effective way to hydrate is through drinking fresh water.
  • If a person continues to appear dehydrated despite consuming what seems to be an appropriate amount of water, an appointment with a physician is necessary. This can be indicative of some other type of medical issue.