Good hydration (drinking enough fluid) is important for all of us for lots of reasons, including preventing dehydration.
Older adults can be at higher risk of becoming dehydrated and may need to remember to drink regularly throughout the day.
Dehydration is a serious condition which can occur when your body does not get enough fluid to meet your needs. Dehydration can be due to low intake of fluid (known as low intake dehydration) over a period of time. In people who are acutely ill it can occur over a short period of time.
This Food Fact Sheet will help you understand what dehydration might look like and how to either stop it from happening or manage it and how much fluid we need to drink.
You can be at even higher risk of dehydration if you:
Drinking enough fluid is important and not drinking enough can have major impacts on your health and wellbeing.
Dehydration can lead to:
It can be really hard to spot dehydration because there are no easy-to-use tests that tell us whether someone is dehydrated or not. Signs (such as urine colour, thirst and a dry mouth) that may be suggested as showing dehydration do not actually work in older adults.
Drinking enough fluid every day is key - you don’t have to drink lots of water to be well hydrated!
However, as you get older, you might not recognise the feeling of thirst in the same way that you used to and so you may need to find other prompts to help you to have regular drinks.
All fluids count so choose:
Think about how often you need to have a drink during the day and what could help remind you to have a drink, for example:
If you are a woman aim to drink at least 1,600ml (3 pints) fluid every day and if you are a man aim to drink at least 2,000ml (3½ pints) fluid every day. Aim to drink a bit more when the weather is hot. If you often don’t drink enough, try to gradually increase the amount you drink – perhaps having one extra drink a day for a few days until it becomes a habit.
Select the best cup, mug or glass for you both in terms of its size and also how easy it is for you to lift and to drink from. Some people may also find being able to see the type of drink they are having helpful so you could try using a clear mug, cup or glass. Cups, mugs & glasses can be lots of different sizes so it’s important to know how much fluid your preferred ones hold, so that you know how many of them you need to drink each day.
If you drink less than the amount advised above and are worried that drinking more might cause you problems controlling your bladder, please discuss this with a healthcare professional. Odd as it sounds, if you do have problems controlling your bladder not drinking enough fluid will not stop this.
If you also have a poor appetite and/or are at risk of malnutrition, the following might help:
If you have any of the following symptoms ask for advice from a healthcare professional. Your health professional may refer you to a speech and language therapist or another practitioner who specialises in swallowing difficulties: