How Much Water Should Older Adults Drink?


July 1, 2024

Water is essential for life – our bodies are 55-60% water. We need it to keep our organs and body healthy, help us digest food, absorb nutrients, and get rid of waste. 

According to the Reynolds Institute on Aging, Seniors should aim for 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day, or approximately 1.5 liters

Seven Caregiver Tips to Help Seniors Get Enough Water

  1. Have your senior sip on water throughout the day. Sometimes using a straw is easier and leads to more water consumption.
  2. Offer a full glass of water when they take medications. If they take medications at different times of the day, this can be a great opportunity to get more water.
  3. Serve a cup of low-fat (water-based) soup, broth, or miso as an afternoon snack. 
  4. Flavor their water. Try a few slices of lemon or sugar-free water flavoring drops.
  5. Serve soft, wet foods that have high water content. Ex.: melon, yogurt, gelatin desserts, pureed fruit, and custard.
  6. Serve afternoon tea. Taking an afternoon break with your senior to have a cup of hot tea. This can be an easy and enjoyable way to get more fluids.
  7. Limit their alcohol. Alcoholic drinks don’t count toward their daily fluid count and contribute to dehydration.

According one one study, most seniors are unaware of the dangers of drinking too little or too much water!

What Happens If You Don’t Drink Enough Water

As we get older, our sense of thirst changes and we may not notice that we need a drink as easily as we once did. To make it worse, when we don’t have enough fluids, we become even less thirsty and drink less water. This can quickly lead to dehydration. Also, some medicines or health conditions may make it more likely that your senior is not getting enough water. 

Signs of dehydration in older adults include:

  • Confusion
  • Tiredness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Urinating fewer than four times a day
  • Dry mouth, lips, eyes, or skin
  • Low blood pressure
  • Disorientation

Not drinking enough fluids can lead to:

  • Problems with memory
  • Poor concentration
  • Slow reaction times
  • Feeling extra tired
  • Weakness
  • More falls
  • Pressure sores
  • Skin conditions
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney problems
  • Constipation

Some medications like laxatives and diuretics (water pills) can cause problems getting enough fluids. Some health problems might also cause people to be dehydrated or have trouble drinking water. These include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of Dementia
  • Having a stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Poor hormone response
  • Problems swallowing
  • Poorly controlled diabetes

Possible Contributing Factors

If your senior has trouble getting around, it might be hard to get to the washroom quickly. This can lead to incontinence, which sometimes makes people avoid drinking. This can cause problems with not getting enough water intake. Incontinence can be caused by other problems, too.

Living in a long-term care home like a nursing home can also lead to not enough water intake. This can be caused by needing help with feeding or not having enough access to water or other drinks.

Stomach bugs that cause vomiting and/or diarrhea, can quickly lead to dehydration. 

Depression can also cause dehydration. If your care recipient doesn’t feel like drinking and they might not take in enough fluid.

Older adults are also more sensitive to the heat. If they are outside in the summer and don’t drink enough water, they can quickly become dehydrated.

Sources: WebMD, National Library of Medicine, and other sources. 

We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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