Post No6…3 Ways Dehydration Has Huge Health Impacts on the Elderly

Post No6…3 Ways Dehydration Has Huge Health Impacts on the Elderly
Photo by Jeremy Bishop / Unsplash

Although the recent heatwave has come to an end, we arguably may now see an increase in prolonged hot conditions in the UK. Dehydration can affect anyone young or old with serious health implications, but in the elderly, it can cause a circle of problems that can be concerning for family members.

According to the British Nutrition Foundation, dehydration can affect a person’s mental functions, including memory and concentration. It can also lead to low blood pressure, dizziness, and an increased risk of falls (Reference - British Nutrition Foundation Dehydration in Older People). Falls, in particular, can have a huge impact on an elderly person, and can lead to many issues including social isolation.


If an elderly person falls there is a high risk of physical injury. If the person lives alone, there is also an increased risk of a long lie, particularly if the person is also living with dementia. I have actually met people who remained on a cold floor for over 2 days after a fall, and the impact on their wellbeing was enormous.

If a person falls and badly injures themselves, or is on blood thinners and hits their head, they will be admitted to hospital for treatment. With hospitals overstretched this can sometimes be a more prolonged stay, and unless proactively mobilising it can also lead to muscle wastage and a longer recovery time.

Falls can also have a lasting impact on a person’s confidence, which sometimes lasts for longer than the physical injury. A loss in confidence can lead to a person not wanting to drink because they don’t want to get up to use the toilet, and in some cases may lead a person becoming socially isolated at home, or developing a Urinary Tract Infection.

Top Tip – Keeping Cool in a Heatwave - by Age UK Southampton
A splash!
Photo by Andrew Ren / Unsplash
Top Tip - Fluid targets for elderly people should range between 1.5L (for women) and 2L (for men)

Urinary Tract Infection’s (UTI)

As mentioned in the intro, dehydration can lead to a circle of problems for elderly people. If a person is afraid of falling, they may not drink enough as they should do to prevent getting up to go to the toilet, and this in turn can lead to an increase in UTI’s.

UTI’s can have a dramatic impact on an older person, they can affect cognition, and for people living with dementia this can sometimes be quite severe. If a person with dementia has a UTI and becomes more confused, they may be taken into hospital for treatment with antibiotics. If a person has frequent UTI’s, and increased hospital admissions, it can cause family members to become concerned for their wellbeing at home.

UTI’s can also lead to an increased risk of falls, which again can cause physical pain and a decline in a person’s ability to independently mobilise. If a person’s cognition and mobility are being affected, the family may look to domically care or convalescent care in a care home to help support them as they recover.

Did you know – As we age our thirst sensation reduces, meaning older people can easily be dehydrated without realising.

Hospital Admissions

Both falls and UTI’s can lead to hospital admissions in the elderly, which can be problematic for both them and their families. With hospitals overstretched and community discharging not always easy, the stay in hospital can easily be prolonged.

NHS workers are fantastic people who work so hard in extremely challenging circumstances, but they do not always have the staff to proactively mobilise all of their elderly patients (outside of the time spent with the physio). This can lead to a slower recovery time, muscle wastage, and the need for convalescent care in a care home or domically based care.

As per a previous post, if a person is being discharged into a care home setting, they maybe discharged on the D2A pathway. This means they may not have to fund the first 4-6 weeks of their care, giving them time to convalesce before returing to their home.


Dehydration can cause many different health problems in the elderly; it can easily go unnoticed and has symptoms similar to other health conditions making it more difficult for families to spot.

In extremely hot weather the risk of dehydration increases, but for elderly people the risk is always there. For families caring for a loved one, keeping a record someone’s fluid intake is a good way to ensure they are drinking enough, try and aim for 1.5 litres - 2 litres per day, which may in turn help them to remain living at home for longer.


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